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Beasts of the Southern Wild [Blu-ray]
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In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the world by a sprawling levee, six year-old Hushpuppy exists on the brink of orphanhood. Her mother long gone, and her father Wink a wildman on a perpetual spree, Hushpuppy is left to her own devices on an isolated compound filled with semi-feral animals. She perceives the natural world to be a fragile web of living, breathing, squirting things, in which the entire universe depends on everything fitting together just right.So when a hundred year storm raises the waters around her town, her daddy is suddenly stricken with illness, and fierce pre-historic creatures awaken from their frozen graves to come charging across the planet, Hushpuppy sees the natural order of everything she holds dear collapsing around her. 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 an unstoppable catastrophe of epic proportions.
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This movie, better than any other, cherishes these truths and films them. I'm grateful that Zeitlan chose not to embrace Cajuns in this movie, because that aspect of our culture has become so commercialized and is so foreign that all people pay attention to when given that in a film are the quaint accents. He chose a creole culture (that does exist more or less) in a place (that also does exist, more or less) and gives it nickname that expresses many of our worst fears about what can happen to cherished lands after a bad flood and storm due to the levee system that was designed, in many cases, to protect some interests only.
Many of the aspects of this movie were drawn from real-life. Levees have been blown up in the past to the decimation of entire creole cultures. Hurricanes come with regularity and destroy much; ome people do not have resources or the ability to leave and some stay out of sheer cussedness. Thanks to coastal erosion, our world is disappearing and will be gone one day into the warm waters of the Gulf.
And yet Zeitlan could not end it there. He tells a story of destruction and death, but one in which children lose all and yet grow up and contain the magic inside them and take the strength of their miraculous orgins with them and can rebuild.
This movie captures who we are, in all our squalor and all our glory and all the uniqueness of the many shifting ethnic and cultural groups that make up this place and this time and make us unique and it captures why it is so heartrending that one day, perhaps not in my lifetime, but perhaps in Wallis's, it will all be gone and only our land's children will be left to bring the strength of this place with them.
Louisiana location footage and realistic acting from non-professionals help bring this adaptation of a stage play to life. The film's real heart is the determination of the little girl, who imagines herself facing down prehistoric boars (the titular beasts) and conversing with her departed mother as the world seems to be ending around her. The film's greatest asset is that it makes us care about the characters and particularly about the tough little girl's struggle to grow up quickly as her father declines and the world around her collapses.
If there is any flaw here, it's that the film suffers from a certain predictability and familiarity. Early foreshadowing scenes make sure there is rarely a point where we can't predict the film's direction: A storm will hit, the father will decline, and the little girl will learn to survive in a world of rural poverty suddenly made even poorer. What makes the film worthwhile, despite its stagey and predictable plot, is the winsome acting that makes the setting come alive. Many of the interactions between father and daughter, and between them and other local survivors, are so delightful to watch that we never feel like we're just waiting for the next scene. It's not the greatest film ever made, but it's the best Katrina-themed survival tale I've seen on film.
The DVD includes a making-of documentary.
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