Sydney Film Festival: Beasts of the Southern Wild

June 19, 2012

So the Sydney Film Festival has wrapped up for 2012 and I got the chance to see several films. Unfortunately due to scheduling commitments I did not get to see all the films on my list! This is the first of my three reviews for Afroklectic which are Beasts of the Southern Wild, La Pirogue and Today.

The first film I got to watch the beautiful Sydney State Theatre was the epic and much hyped Beasts of the Southern Wild. An entrant in the festival’s  official competition. The film is a surreal adventurous tale about the citizens of the town of Bathtub set in America’s South.

I am conflicted about the film. It was an exceptional film and yet there were gaps which I found unsettling.

The film follows the inhabitants of Bathtub − a town which is deliberately cut off from the rest of society. Its inhabitants live a simple yet chaotic life deep in this wilderness resisting attempts to integrate into the mainland. At the centre of this chaos is the courageous and humorous Hushpuppy played by Quvenzhané Wallis. Wallis gives an outstanding and spellbinding performance as a young girl leading a strange existence mostly in her underwear and boots with her mysterious yet absent father Wink (Dwight Henry) who lives in the house next door to her. (For some unexplained reason daughter and father do not live in the same space.)

A disastrous storm forces Hushpuppy and her father along with a few stubborn characters to move away from the area. There is an intense and complicated relationship between Hushpuppy and her father set against the dangerous backdrop of the storm and later as their house floats along the river. The audience is told of a mysterious illness that has taken hold of her father with tragic consequences but it is never fully explained.

There is also the issue of the impending beasts (large hog like creatures) which descend on Bathtub. I interpreted the beasts as the ecological disaster that was impending on the area, possibly a metaphor for global climate change. Hushpuppy lyrically waxes:

‘The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted’.

While the plot started off strong, I found it going in a variety of tangents. In the second half a few different elements took away from the intensity of the story. All in all, the storyline wasn’t always perfect but the characters were magical, the cinematography and music were captivating.





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