Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Quvenzhane Wallis as Hushpuppy on the set of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Photo Credit: Jess Pinkham.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

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Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Opened: 06/27/2012 Limited

Limited06/27/2012
Sunshine Cinema06/27/2012 - 10/04/2012100 days
Arclight/Holly...06/27/2012 - 09/27/201293 days
The Landmark06/27/2012 - 09/13/201279 days
Lincoln Plaza06/29/2012 - 10/11/2012105 days
Kendall Square...07/06/2012 - 09/27/201284 days
Playhouse 707/06/2012 - 09/13/201270 days
Fallbrook 707/13/2012 - 08/23/201242 days
Claremont 507/13/2012 - 08/07/201226 days
AMC Empire 2507/13/2012 - 07/26/201214 days
Clearview Chel...07/20/2012 - 09/20/201263 days
Monica 4-Plex07/20/2012 - 09/13/201256 days
NoHo 707/20/2012 - 08/09/201221 days
Town Center 507/27/2012 - 08/09/201214 days
AMC Empire 2508/31/2012 - 09/06/20127 days
Cinema Village...10/05/2012 - 10/11/20127 days
DVD12/04/2012
Sunshine Cinema01/18/2013 - 03/28/201370 days
Kendall Square...01/18/2013 - 03/14/201356 days
Lincoln Plaza01/18/2013 - 03/14/201356 days
Embassy Cinema01/18/2013 - 02/14/201328 days
The Landmark01/18/2013 - 01/31/201314 days
Town Center 502/01/2013 - 02/28/201328 days
Regent Theatre02/01/2013 - 02/14/201314 days
Georgetown 1402/01/2013 - 02/14/201314 days
Los Angeles02/01/2013 - 02/07/20137 days
AMC Empire 2502/08/2013 - 02/14/20137 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Fantasy/Drama

Rated: PG-13 for thematic material including child imperilment, some disturbing images, language and brief sensuality.

"Among the best films to play at Sundance in two decades...

Hauntingly beautiful both visually and in the tenderness it shows towards the characters." -- Manohla Dargis, The New York Times

Synopsis

In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural order is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

Fox Searchlight Pictures presents, in association with Cinereach, a Cinereach and Court 13 Production, in association with Journeyman Pictures, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD starring Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry. The film is directed by Benh Zeitlin and screenplay by Lucy Alibar & Benh Zeitlin based on the stage play Juicy and Delicious written by Lucy Alibar. The producers are Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey & Josh Penn. The executive producers are Philipp Engelhorn, Michael Raisler and Paul Mezey with Matthew Parker and Chris Carroll as co-producers. The creative team includes director of photography Ben Richardson, production designer Alex DiGerlando, edited by Crockett Doob and Affonso Goncalves, music by Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin and costume designer Stephani Lewis.

Director's Statement

Someone's ability to bake doughnuts or laugh loud is just as good a reason to make them a dolly grip as their ability to push a dolly. I want to fill my life and my films with wild, brave, good-hearted people. Whatever amount of chaos and disaster that leads to doesn't matter, because you're going through it with the people you love, and in the end, no matter what, the movies come out wild, brave, and good-hearted; and that's more important to me than smooth dolly moves.

This concept extended to every part of the process making Beasts of the Southern Wild. My approach to making movies is about crafting an energy, a feeling, and a way of life that the people that make movies with me can live. It's about inventing a reality and populating it with the best people I know.

Most gloriously, in our casting process -- where we chose Dwight Henry, from the bakery across the street, and Quvenzhane Wallis, from Honduras Elementary School to take charge of our heroes, Wink and Hushpuppy. Neither of them had any previous experience acting, but when you look in their eyes, you see fearless warriors, and you know they can do anything. Even though you then revise the script as you learn from the actors and settings along the way and change everything about your approach, it doesn't matter, because those elements were superficial in the face of accurately capturing the fierce spirit that the film needed to articulate. That principle was applied to every decision. Are we going to create an interior water set? Or are we going to sea? Do we dress an accessible location to look like an island at the edge of the world, or do we go to the edge of the world? Do we dress an 11 year-old to look like she's six? Or do we cast a six year-old? We tested the strength of the story and family that made it against every element that would try to break it.

I got hooked on South Louisiana because this mentality is everywhere. I showed up for a short visit six years ago and I've been there ever since. It's the home of the most tenacious people in America -- an endangered species. And that fierceness was how I came to this story. With the hurricanes, the oil spills, the land decaying out from under our feet, there's a sense of inevitability that one day it's all going to get wiped off the map. I wanted to make a movie exploring how we should respond to such a death sentence. Not critiquing the politicians who have caused it, or calling to arms for environmental responsibility, or raising awareness of suffering, or any of that.

The real question to me, is how do you find the strength to stand by and watch the place that made you die, while maintaining the hope and the joy and the celebratory spirit that defined it? I found the answers in the ferocious people I cast in the film, and I found an incredible articulation of that story in my dear wonderful friend and co-writer Lucy Alibar's play "Juicy and Delicious" -- an apocalyptic comedy about a little boy losing his father at the end of the world. From the two of us, and with the spirit of Quvenzhane Wallis, came Hushpuppy. She's a little beast who, in order to survive, has to find the strength of South Louisiana at the age of six. I put all the wisdom and courage I've got into her. She's the person I want to be.

-- Benh Zeitlin, Director/Co-Writer

About the Production

"They gonna know: that once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her Daddy in the Bathtub."

A spellbinding adventure set just past the known edges of the American Bayou, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD follows a girl named Hushpuppy as she takes on rising waters, a sinking village, changing times, an army of prehistoric creatures and an unraveling universe that she bravely tries to stitch back together through the sheer force of spirit and resilience.

The film, shot on location in the coastal parishes of Louisiana with local non-actors in the lead roles, came to the Sundance Film Festival a hand-made, fiercely imaginative underdog and left a runaway hit and winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize as well as the Excellence in Cinematography Award. By the time that happened, the fictional "Bathtub" -- a fantastical bayou neverland inspired by real Southern Louisiana communities where people persist against all odds to revel in life, no matter what comes -- had taken on a life of its own in the hearts of many, unfolding with all the indescribable sights and untamed emotions of a dream in progress.

Much like Hushpuppy's survival in the midst of raging storms, both in the sky and her heart, the whole enterprise of BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD began as a pipe dream that became possible only through the commitment of a strongly united community. For director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin, who makes his feature debut after a series of award-winning shorts, including GLORY AT SEA, it started with a question that had been on his mind for a long time: why do people stay in the places they love, with the people they love, even when they know big trouble is on the way?

"Daddy says brave men don't run from their place."

"I've always been interested in holdouts," says Benh Zeitlin. "Like why do people stay in a place that's difficult to live in or that's dangerous or that puts your life at risk? Why do people stand by their homes in times of disaster?"

He found those same questions lingering on the underside of playwright Lucy Alibar's stage play, "Juicy and Delicious," about a ten year-old Southern boy who believes that his father's coming death will coincide with the end of the world, complete with a rampaging army of prehistoric Aurochs.

"I've known Lucy since we were 13 years old in playwriting camp together -- and since then, I have always loved the humor in her plays and their mix of brutality and sweetness, the way her characters can be really harsh and yet, at their core, is a very heartfelt view of how people take care of each other," he says. "'Juicy and Delicious' is about a boy who feels like the whole world is collapsing when his father is dying, and I felt there was a real connection between the emotions of a child losing a father and those of a community losing their place in the world. That had a lot of resonance for me and I wanted to find a way to take that story and expand upon it."

Once they joined forces, Zeitlin told Alibar he wanted to make the lead character a girl. Alibar recalls, "I was at a point where emotionally I could really be true to the things that we all think about -- your father, your parents dying, losing your land, being by yourself. The courage of the characters helped me have the courage to be really present and honest."

"Benh and I had a wonderful collaboration," continues Alibar. "Everyone has horror stories of Hollywood, but this was different because it was so far outside the system. Benh understood that this was so personal to me and a story true to my own. He came to Georgia and hung out with my dad and would just write stuff down. It meant a lot to me that he wanted to really go that deep to get to the heart of it."

Alibar and Zeitlin began transplanting the story's themes to the subsiding landscape of southern Louisiana -- a place that prioritizes unadulterated joy and outsized appetites even as its towns fill with water and its bayou shores sink away. Zeitlin widened the film's scope to portray the loss of place as well as person, as the slow demise of Hushpuppy's father, Wink, finds a parallel in the demise of their beloved home: the slightly fantastical, yet hauntingly familiar, realm on the other side of the levee, known as the Bathtub. The Bathtub wasn't quite based on any specific town, but rather it became a concentration of all the most exhilarating cultural elements of southern Louisiana in one place -- all the rolling good times that stood to be taken away by the epic natural shifts going on in the region.

"That's what the Bathtub is -- it's the place on the other side," says Zeitlin. "It's a place that's been cut off and left out the same way it's been sort of geographically chopped off of America."

To put themselves at the front lines of what stood to be lost by these shifts, Zeitlin and Alibar collaborated on the script while residing in Pointe Aux Chenes, at the far end of the bayou where they would shoot. From there they could visit Isle de Jean Charles, a low-lying ridge of land that also lies beyond the protections of the levee system, in Terrebonne Parish, Louisiana. Isle de Jean Charles is home to a tight-knit community of about 90 people, many descendants of Cajun and Native American fishermen, who stay despite the imminent danger of floating into the Gulf of Mexico.

"It's one of the best examples I've seen of tenacious people keeping a place alive," observes Zeitlin. "There's a tragic side to it, and yet the spirit is not at all morose. It's so much fun to be there, and there's great food and it's just glorious. That whole feeling really inspired the characters and their choices to keep celebrating life and to never abandon the people and places you care about."

As Zeitlin and Alibar began hammering out the story in a marina located literally where the road ends and the Gulf begins, the Bathtub turned into an original expression of that Louisiana ideal in which people from every conceivable walk of life all simmer in one spicy stew together.

"In the Bathtub, age doesn't divide people, religion doesn't divide people, money and politics don't divide people," notes Zeitlin. "We wanted to take all those lines between people and pull them out so there's nothing but unity in this community. This is not a literal interpretation of any place in Louisiana, but it is definitely inspired by Louisiana because you feel that potential here."

The inexhaustible spirit of the Bathtub gave birth to the spirit of Hushpuppy, the diminutive but mighty heroine who has to figure out how you can be fully there for the people and places you love even as they threaten to slip away. Part wild child, part ancient soul, she might have to worry about her very survival, but Hushpuppy learns to do it with an exuberance no one can take away from her.

"The Bathtub accepts people and their flaws, and it's a non-judgmental, non-divisive place that is about people caring for each other and Hushpuppy becomes the boiled down essence of that," says Zeitlin. "She's the tiny folk hero who is able to go up against obstacles you can't possibly imagine."

Although the five bayous that extend south of Houma like fingers into the ocean -- and the lifestyles of local shrimpers, crabbers and oilmen -- were certainly fertile ground for their imaginations, from the outset Zeitlin and Alibar knew the Bathtub was going to be a step away from reality and more likely the realm of folk tales and fables. They were able to envision this world as the writing process overlapped with some premature location scouting. After Benh found an abandoned school bus and two rusty 15 foot oil drums in the back of Claude Bourg's Cajun Country Stop, Hushpuppy had a home. But Zeitlin was always conscious that tying the film's setting to any particular place or issue would diminish the impact of the story, and that removing any literal frame of reference would open it up to a wider, richer viewing experience.

By the end of their stay in the marina, Zeitlin and Alibar had spun a huge tale in an alternate universe that probably could have used the resources of a $100 million blockbuster to build. Now they would have to tailor this giant world to a small budget -- one of many seemingly impossible challenges they tackled with gusto.

About the Cast

Quvenzhane Wallis (Hushpuppy) was born on August 28, 2003, in Houma, Louisiana. She attends Honduras Elementary School and is in the 3rd grade. She is the daughter of Venjie Sr. and Qulyndreia Wallis. Qunyquekya, Venjie Jr., and Vejon are her siblings. Her favorite pastimes are reading, singing, dancing, acting, and playing her iPod and Nintendo DS. Her favorite TV stars/singers are China McClain, Selena Gomez, and Miley Cyrus, and her favorite food is stir-fry Alfredo Chicken. Her favorite sports are basketball, volleyball, dance and cheerleading.

Dwight Henry (Wink) has lived in New Orleans most of his life. He is the son of Dr. Victor Arthur Henry, and his mother is Etna Henry. He has five children: Dwight Jr., Darius, Cameron, Dwayne, and D'juan. He's a self-made businessman; for the past 15 years, he's been the owner of Henry's Bakery & Deli, and he is the current owner of the Buttermilk Drop Bakery & Cafe, located at 1781 N. Dorgenois Street, in New Orleans, Louisiana. His passions are cooking, baking, and sports. And now, acting.

 

Trailer