Beasts of the Southern Wild
July 5, 2012 2:41 PM   Subscribe

After much critical acclaim, the dramatic jury prize at Sundance, the Fipresci prize at Cannes, and a 'national critical response for the ages,' Louisiana-produced Beasts of the Southern Wild opened yesterday.

Official Featurette: On Set (video)

Sundance Video Review (video)

Cannes 2012 Sneak Peak (video)

Time Magazine: Beasts of the Southern Wild: The Sundance Sensation Wins Cheers at Cannes

New York Times: She’s the Man of This Swamp

Gambit New Orleans
A mythical tale about the strength and spirit of the people of south Louisiana, Beasts gets to the heart of what makes the area so special. But it also represents a new approach to making movies inspired by the one-of-a-kind street culture found in New Orleans. If Zeitlin and company have their way, Beasts will mark the beginning of a new era of grassroots filmmaking in Louisiana and far beyond.
posted by the man of twists and turns (27 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
You certainly made my day! I am so excited about this film Because I can no longer go to movie houses, I posted a pleas to my friends on FB: "If anybody goes to the Prytania on Wednesday, let me know what you think of this film." So far, no replies, but this is a more than acceptable report. Thank you, thank you for all the links.
posted by Anitanola at 2:54 PM on July 5, 2012

Fantasy starring a woman of color? Fantastic!

In a genre dominated by white people (and light-skinned mythical people), that's no small thing.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 2:54 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

This seems to be a sort of sequel, elaboration to the astonishing Glory At Sea. Previously on MetaFilter.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:00 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

...the beginning of a new era of grassroots filmmaking in Louisiana...

Does that mean I can finally stop holding my breath for A Confederacy of Dunces?
posted by ubiquity at 3:26 PM on July 5, 2012

Already getting a stream of calls at my theatre about it.
posted by penduluum at 3:34 PM on July 5, 2012

Nah, the problem with Confederacy is that it's caught up in development hell. The only way someone could make a microbudget guerilla version would be if everyone who has their fingers in that particular pie gave it up (*cough* Scott Rudin *cough*), and Scott Kramer and/or the O'Toole estate was willing to option the rights to a new script for like, $2 or something.

That said, googling implies that Zach Galifinakis is now attached to the project, so who knows? Either way, definitely not going to be a guerilla filmmaking sort of production. If it can ever get made, it's going to be oscar bait.

Back on topic, being from South Lousiana I'm super excited to see this. Especially since I'm working on my own little guerilla film project similar in scope, if not plot.
posted by Sara C. at 3:36 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ugh, that should be Toole, not O'Toole.
posted by Sara C. at 3:37 PM on July 5, 2012

The trailer.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:38 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Ooooh, I'm so excited for this.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 3:55 PM on July 5, 2012

This looks potentially very wonderful. Thanks for putting it on my radar.
posted by byanyothername at 4:07 PM on July 5, 2012

Not only a young girl of color, but a heroine with gorgeous natural hair!!! When I first saw the trailer, it gave me chills. Yay!
posted by jeanmari at 5:25 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

The soundtrack's already up on Spotify. It's pretty great.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:08 PM on July 5, 2012

We went and saw it last night, before going out for some liquor and fireworks in the french quarter, that felt like a sort of natural continuation of the movie, and probably that colored my experience of the movie some, but really the movie was amazing.
Sort of like a drunken Terrence Malick, with no budget, and a grimmer view of the world.

The whole cast is pretty fantastic, (pretty much no one with an acting credit before this outside of a Big Freida video and Glory at sea.) but the two leads are just amazing.

Also they made the monsters by putting hats on pigs, and dressing up a pig is probably the most delightful thing there is.
posted by St. Sorryass at 6:08 PM on July 5, 2012 [3 favorites]

Cool, thanks for posting!
posted by clockzero at 6:50 PM on July 5, 2012

Fantasy starring a woman of color? Fantastic!

You might also like a (seemingly) thematically-similar comic called Bayou.

My girlfriend brought this movie up to me because she knows someone involved in the music, but we haven't had time to see it yet. Looking forward to it, though.
posted by frogstar at 7:07 PM on July 5, 2012

One of my favorite films that Benh has made is "The Origins of Electricity" which was made in the VERY early days of Court 13--the filmmaker collective that produced "Beasts."
posted by geryon at 8:34 PM on July 5, 2012

Wow. I've been very much out of a movie-going headspace for some years now, but this… this looks worth going to the theater for. Thank you!

(And good call on posting the featurette as the first link, not the trailer. Based on having seen only those two, it's far more effective.)
posted by Lexica at 9:41 PM on July 5, 2012

I didn't like it and I didn't find it inspiring in the least. I found one decent dissenting review that gets at my problems with it. I felt like I was watching a character suffer serious abuse while the audience laughed.

I can defiantly understand feeling that way about the movie.

I just wrote that and then sat here for awhile and thought of what sort of point I was trying to make. I was going to make a counter argument of some kind, but I don't know.

That is a perfectly valid reading of the film. It is definitely an outsiders view of New Orleans, and feels often emotionally clumsy. It is also abstract enough, and loose enough, to really allow your own emotionally stuff to come through. If you take it all literally then yeah, that was a pretty awful movie. If you take it as poetry it can still probably be a pretty awful movie.

It is full of brutality, and unnecessary suffering, but when I watched it, I did not feel like that was taken lightly. I think the movie was about a view of the world that I don't really share, or maybe half share at best, and I don't think that it tries to tell you that this view of the world is right. I do know people that really do share it. my best fiend here, also not a native, and someone who moved here right after Katrina and found a place here in that time and place. Is absolutely the embodiment of that world view, he knows that the best way to deal with the fact that we are all meat, is with fireworks and liquor, and maybe a few hard truths that come from becoming friends with the pigs in hats.
most weekends we get together and I tell him that he is full of shit, that he shouldn't always vote for the libertarian candidate, and that maybe if he thinks he might have diabetes
he should see a doctor.

I also don't think that the film is trying to project that view onto the actual poor and sick and tragic. I really like the book one flew over the cuckoo's nest as allegory, but it is a terrible book if you actually take it as critique of the mental health system. I think Charles Bukowski lived a terribly unhappy life, and probably made some other peoples lives worse as well, but I love to read his poems, and to see him having an unexpected moment of happiness because he likes his cats, and also he is drunk.

Again I am trying to form an argument, and I don't really have anything to argue.

I like fireworks and booze ok, but will hopefully see a doctor for any cancers that might arise.
posted by St. Sorryass at 10:11 PM on July 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

i thought it was appropriately, weirdly gendered and violent for new orleans / terrebonne.

But that negative reviewer misses the point, which I suppose isn't made very explicitly in the movie, that Louisiana was sacrificed a couple of generations ago so that new jersey could have heating oil. and we're now living in what is left of that bargain.

South Louisiana is a lesson to the rest of the continent about what is coming with climate change, we and our scion will have to live with some awful consequences. Talk about bad parenting!

I enjoyed the trick of moving locations from the upper to lower basin to show the landscape changes after the storm. and giant, cute pet pigs.

the heart of the movie, and what really stays with me, is how the protagonist proclaims that she will be known after she is dead and gone.

thanks for the link to Glory at Sea; i saw that junk heap at Seabrook dock for months, wondering who was responsible for it.
posted by eustatic at 10:19 PM on July 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Does anyone know where I might find a screen shot of the map of the levee from early in the film? I'd love to get a closer look at it.
posted by ocherdraco at 4:31 PM on July 6, 2012

This film is not about New Orleans.
posted by Anitanola at 9:03 AM on July 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Yes, the film is about Isle de Jean Charles, but I would argue it's also about New Orleans and the whole Louisiana coast-- especially for people from outside of the region. It's a roll of the dice where the hurricane strikes.

South Louisiana, although culturally diverse, is very similar in terms of our social dysfunction and ways in which we are coping and not coping with the large environmental changes of the recent past--loss of the wetlands-- and the large environmental upheavals of the present and near future--stronger hurricanes and aggravated sea level rise.

Terrebonne Parish eyes the giant, malfunctioning, too-expensive-to-operate levee system that New Orleans has with a burning envy. People in New Orleans were able to ignore what was happening to Terrebonne and more distal places in Terrebonne like Isle de Jean Charles for a long time, because of that levee (and I think we are forgetting again). It's because of this family squabble that it's taken so long to come to consensus on a plan of action for the coast.

New Orleans' economy is dependent on Houma and the coast, and the city itself is only slightly less vulnerable to storms because of the earthen walls. Post-Katrina, the Army Corps calls the hurricane levee and sector gates a "risk reduction system," not a protection system. The wetlands were our real protection system, and they are gone.

Here's a documentary specifically about Isle de Jean Charles.

although it looks like, in the messaging, it puts too much faith in "barrier islands"--as if "barrier islands" used to act like a levee. This has been the talking point of the United Houma Nation, but the state does plan to rebuild the Isles Dernieres, and I don't think they will help Isle de Jean Charles much. The whole coast has disintegrated.

The film, which I love and champion and everyone should see, looks like someone from the northeast, living in bywater, made a movie about the virtues of terrebonne parish.

The film is especially about those distal fingers of Terrebonne that have dealt with the inequities of the oil industry and land loss for two generations and are currently dealing with the fact that the giant, doomed-to-fail Morganza-to-the-Gulf [pdf] levee won't be built to protect their communities.

I was surprised to not see more oil industry infrastructure in the film, because it still defines much of the south louisiana landscape. There's only one scene dealing with it; it's a great scene, but I think it's a flaw that it's only one.

here's a blog from Gustav about the Island.

new orleans and houma consider themselves very different places, but really they are very much alike. It's a transplant's vision that sees the similarities between the two places.

From the point of view of people in other places, we're the same. And that "useful thing made from an assortment of complete junk" aesthetic has bywater, new orleans, written all over it. It's the new orleans' version of Portlandia's "put a bird on it."
posted by eustatic at 6:01 PM on July 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

At its heart, I hope the film is about the human spirit which transcends even the place from which it emanates. This fine work does not have to be read as political commentary. It can be enjoyed, Roger Ebert says, as a fable of survival for our time which happily introduces us to a luminous little girl.
posted by Anitanola at 7:57 PM on July 7, 2012

So it's political! Most things are. I like Brendon McNamara's tweet after he saw it: "that sho shine some beauty on the broken thangs, man." Here's a featurette in Rolling Stone on the creation of the score.
posted by Anitanola at 8:48 PM on July 7, 2012

I just saw the film today, I'm going to be carrying around in my head with me for a while. Its flaws are such interesting ones. I can relate to the perspective that it romanticizes rural poverty and isolation, because I was feeling that early in the film: a bit voyeuristic, a bit as if I was gawking at these strange lives. But in the end, I find myself agreeing that the movie was about a view of the world that I don't really share, or maybe half share at best, and I don't think that it tries to tell you that this view of the world is right.

It didn't say much for me about community resilience, and it didn't have to be that way.

I think that's part of what I appreciated about the film's perspective, personally: there was not really valorization of the community so much as there was recognition of the fact that people need their families, and need their communities, and the families and communities that we have are flawed, in some cases to the point of dysfunction. The need for community doesn't make it a good, and I found that I was kind of ambivalent about the community's survival, at the same time that I was not unsympathetic to the way its members clung fiercely to the people and the way of life they knew.

I appreciated how the story took Hushpuppy from a child I wanted to protect to a child whose tenacity and fearlessness I admired, even recognizing that the choices she made were immature and potentially detrimental in the long run. I like that in the end, the mood I was left with was not tragic or triumphant, but reflective.
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:43 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

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