By Frantz Cayo
Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated in multiple categories for the 2013 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and the youngest Best Actress nominee of all time, Quvenzhane Wallis. As an independent film, many people have still not seen this film ($11 million total revenue in the United States) and I am telling you need to go to iTunes (or however you download films) and check it out. I am not going to get into the whole plot summary which you can find from Fox Searchlight:
“In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. 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 unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.”
Instead I am going to give you five reasons to watch this movie before the Oscars air on February 24th.
1. Actress: As a producer there are two things you don't want to mess with when casting a movie: animals and children. They both are just too hard to deal with. Animals because they can't speak, they have special production rules, they look at the camera, and their owners. Children because they don't truly understand what you want from them, they have special production rules, they look into the camera and their parents. The job that this young lady did with both her actions and her words you would have thought that they were filming a true documentary. Quvenzhane Wallis’ voice over is also amazing as it added depth to the character and understanding to the plot. For those reasons alone she was beyond worthy of an Oscar nomination.
2. Cinematography: This independent film was NOT shot by a digital camera - and it shows. The beautiful scenes were all shot in 16mm film and you can see the depth and color pop in every frame. The frames that made it to the movie were filled with richness and fully explored and pronounced the situation you were being presented.
3. Reality: As I alluded to in my first point, the reality portrayed in the film was overwhelming yet authentic. Each character was not over the top not a stereotype you have seen and been upset about a million times. No, these are new individuals with their own story that they are being presented to you as part of a collective. You can watch the film multiple times just to absorb each individual story and reflect on them.
4. DIY: This film was produced and created through the work of a collective - Court 13 - that was created at the director’s school, Wesleyan University. The director maxed all of his credit cards and made the film for $100,000. Each person who worked on the film had no big film experience and everyone was there trying to express their own creativity through this project. In the end, it was a true labor of love without ridiculous expectations. In the end, the film’s reception has exceeded their imagination.
5. Subject Matter: Following the lives of these people who have separated themselves from the rest of the world and their fight to sustain their lives in face of calamity - is something not done by Hollywood on a frequent or regular basis. No action star, or fairy tale love story is portrayed here. And even though people are poor and in ill health it is not about redemption or pity. It is just an every day look at their lives and how they are dealing day to day. We get to peak into their lives and bad shit happens. I just came back from a wonderful exhibit on Gordon Parks at the Studio Museum of Harlem that showed a poignant look at a poor family in Harlem in 1967 - both good and bad. There is no filter in his portrayal ... just like Beasts. That is what makes this film truly remarkable.