Oct 23 2012 By Flossie Topping
Having just walked away from the London Film Festival with the Sutherland Award for his debut feature film, Behn Zeitlin has lots to celebrate.
Beasts of the Southern Wild, an ode to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, has triumphed in winning over audiences at Cannes and Sundance, and now rumour has it that the film's star, nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis could make history by becoming the youngest ever recipient of an Oscar nomination.
Wallis plays six-year-old Hushpuppy, who lives with her alcoholic father Wink on an island they call 'the bathtub'. Their simple life, and that of the eccentric community, is disrupted when the southern icecaps melt
and the island is suddenly underwater. To make matters worse, Wink is seriously ill, and Hushpuppy must learn life's lessons to survive.
Zeitlin's visual style is both real and surreal, flitting between the dreamlike wilds of nature, and the hard knocks that young Hushpuppy must endure. The result is forcibly poetic and emotive, showing the connectedness of the community with their environment and drawing out the non-actors' real-life experiences of natural disasters to create something raw and personal.
Quvenzhané Wallis is mesmerising to watch, confidently narrating the film's most philosophical lines; 'the whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right' as we watch the world through her eyes. Zeitlin has described his protégé as a "wise, wise person in a tiny, tiny body," and that after searching for six months and auditioning over 4000 children, Wallis stuck out as having a unique authenticity.
An apocalyptic celebration of life, Beasts of the Southern Wild presents an inspiring kind of artistic filmmaking, presenting the life force of nature with original allegorical favour. Its powerful point of view commands to be listened to.
Beasts of the Southern Wild is in UK cinemas October 19th.