Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

(On Cable TV, May 2013) One of the best things about digital filmmaking is how it lowers the barriers to moviemaking, and so allows people traditionally left voiceless by Hollywood to find a way to tell stories that are meaningful to them.  The result often feels a lot like Beasts of the Southern Wild, an unpolished, grainy and loose blend of genres and influences that nonetheless feels like a welcome revelation.  Don’t expect solid world-building in this fantastical tale where global warming, gigantic beasts, post-apocalyptic imagery and poor coastal communities all intersect: it may be pure fantasy, it may be magical realism, it may be science-fiction, but it’s certainly something different.  The script may lurch from one thing to another, but it has something interesting to say, and honestly presents an oppressed viewpoint that’s rarely portrayed on-screen.  The real revelation of the film is young Quvenzhané Wallis, a tiny force of nature able to stop huge beasts in their tracks (not to mention ordinary moviegoers) by the sole power of her stare.  While the movie would have benefited from a more polished script, I fear that such an improvement would have taken away some of the film’s unusual power.  It’s probably best to experience Beasts of the Southern Wild as it exists and not worry about how it could have been better.

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