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Beasts of the Southern Wild

The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. 

Year: 2012 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 (XWide) 
Certificate: BBFC 12A Cert – Under 12s admitted only with an adult 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by Benh Zeitlin 
Starring: Quvenzhane Wallis, Dwight Henry, Levy Easterly  
An image from Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild follows 6-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) in a journey to save her father and her home - both on the verge of extinction - and find the mother she lost once before. She lives in ‘The Bathub’, a peripheralized piece of land seemingly rife with alcoholism, unemployment, poverty and child neglect, but through the filter of Hushpuppy’s eyes it becomes a place of whimsy and wonder, a constant holiday.

Here, nature reigns supreme and with the icecaps melting and water levels rising, a hurricane is coming that’ll flood the Bathtub, but Hushpuppy and her erratic father, Wink (Dwight Henry) refuse to leave - and despite the perils of staying, we can’t help but root for them. This is a film about defending your own way of life, refusing to cower and fighting against anything trying to interfere – from shelter homes to your own fear. Personal freedom comes before safety or health: they are determined to live and die their own way.

The film is filled with firsts: incredible lead performances from first-time actors, the exuberant direction of Benh Zeitlin in his first feature, and the sheer novelty of the film itself. While mildly reminiscent of parts of other films (perhaps a Ghibli animation in its childish indifference to the extraordinary, or the touches of Malick in its pausing direction) when contemplated as an exhilarating whole it feels entirely unlike anything before it.

And, as a whole, Beasts is ultimately a feel-good film. In the Bathtub they celebrate life, even in the face of death. Festivities follow disasters in spite of the devastation; rather than mourn loss, they feast and revel because they are still alive. They prefer to commemorate lives lived rather than grieve deaths. Essentially, the characters prefer to find the heartbeats in life. That is why, despite all its pain and desolation, fundamentally Beasts is an uplifting film. It is a reminder of the wonders of vitality.

Amel Mukhtar

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Screenings of this film:

2012/2013 Spring Term (digital)
2019/2020 Spring Term (digital)