Beasts of the Southern Wild

Director: Benh Zeitlin
Starring: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry
Genre: Ummm, yeah

The argument goes that there are only five storylines and every film is a rehash of one of them. So it’s refreshing to see a film that is a genuinely different take on the age-old story of being different. Walking out of the State Theatre after a Sydney Film Festival screening, one cinemagoer was overheard ungrammatically calling it “the most unique film I’ve ever seen”.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is truly something special and so was an excellent choice for the Film Festival as it rediscovered its art-house roots in 2012.

The film works on so many levels. It’s a celebration of life as much as it is about the fleetingness of it all, and all amid warnings of environmental calamity and climate change as represented by the Beasts, prehistoric creatures called aurochs trapped in ice for millennia.

Set in a Southern American bayou, the dirt-poor but culturally rich inhabitants struggle to get by. They face their problems with good humour, song and plenty of booze. Nature provides them with ever-present inspiration and a livelihood. But it both gives and takes away and within that context 6-year-old Hushpuppy goes on a magical and surreal journey.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is funny, sad and just plain “out there” with great natural performances; everything this reviewer wants from a film. A 70-something year-old American woman I spoke to at the Festival found Beasts disappointing as it relied on southern bayou stereotypes, but if you know nothing about bayou culture then that shouldn’t be a problem.


Rating: Five ice ages

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