Screenshot of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival award winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild” movie.
When I was heading to a small cinema in Troyeschyna district in a shaky and extremely overcrowded marshrutka to see a showing of 2012 Sundance Film Festival award winner “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” I honestly doubted it was worth it. As it turned out, I didn’t have to. At the end of all, if I didn’t go, I would never have met the beautiful Hushpuppy.
The movie’s central character, a six-year-old girl with curly hair and a stubborn face, lives in a poor and degraded village in the depth of Louisiana. The child, Hushpuppy, is raised by a loving, but sick and alcohol-addicted father. The daughter has plenty of time to explore the world around her, bringing her experience with all the unpleasant and dangerous events she will confront when her father dies.
When Hushpuppy’s isolated village gets flooded, her family and several neighbors struggle to survive in a small boathouse. Quite soon the slow-developing story suddenly speeds up when, desperate to get on solid ground again, villagers blow up the nearby dam to reduce the water level. The dam is a clear symbol of a distant modern world, far beyond the borders of the village. It also explodes frighteningly easy, giving viewers a feeling that something terrible is being released. Hushpuppy seems to feel this too.
Before filming “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” his first feature after several shorts, director Behn Zeitlin and some crew members spent some time living in a Louisiana village to have a closer look at the lifestyle of locals.
It is therefore interesting how this authentic-looking life where little kids live in rusty huts and sit on the floor in the only classroom of a local school is scripted with the movie’s fictional elements, like giant hogs that come to Hushpuppy’s village to indicate the world’s end. Zeitlin managed to combine pieces of social drama and fantasy into something with no name for it. The movie’s general atmosphere, as well as some specific elements, like hogs that come with surreal noise, is reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s animation classic “Princess Mononoke.”
Slow as it is, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is quite easy to watch, mostly because of the beautiful nature forming a nice picture, and, of course, Hushpuppy herself.
It has been said that five-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis was cast to play Hushpuppy among 4,000 other kids. If so, it is the best and most fortunate movie casting of a child since the 2001 pick of Harry Potter’s protagonist trio. Wallis’ Hushpuppy is a true survivalist, her photogenic face being a mix of stubbornness and vivacity. The movie is dominated by close-ups of Hushpuppy’s face. The character that she and film’s crew had created looks so authentic and feasible it is even hard to think of it as a result of a casting.
With all the mixture of themes, symbols and moods that “Beasts of the Southern Wild” has, it can hardly be defined with any specific film genre. It is definitely not a social drama, although there is a poor village kid facing life as an orphan. It’s not a fantasy story, even though the kid speaks to mythical giant hogs. It’s not another meaningless but ambitious art house film.
Fortunately, now that the movie is finally in Ukraine’s theaters after its world premiere in January, Ukrainian movie lovers can finally decide themselves what “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is like.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
19 Velyka Vasylkivska St. 9 p.m.
Sept. 20-26. Hr 40.
Kyiv Post staff writer Olga Rudenko can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org