A spellbinding adventure set just past the known edges of the American Bayou, Beasts of the Southern Wild follows a girl named Hushpuppy as she takes on rising waters, a sinking village, changing times, an army of prehistoric creatures and an unraveling universe that she bravely tries to stitch back together through the sheer force of spirit and resilience.
The film, shot on location in the coastal parishes of Louisiana with local non-actors in the lead roles, came to the Sundance Film Festival a hand-made, fiercely imaginative underdog and left a runaway hit and winner of the coveted Grand Jury Prize as well as the Excellence in Cinematography Award. By the time that happened, the fictional “Bathtub” – a fantastical bayou neverland inspired by real Southern Louisiana communities where people persist against all odds to revel in life, no matter what comes – had taken on a life of its own in the hearts of many, unfolding with all the indescribable sights and untamed emotions of a dream in progress.
Much like Hushpuppy’s survival in the midst of raging storms, both in the sky and her heart, the whole enterprise of Beasts of the Southern Wild began as a pipe dream that became possible only through the commitment of a strongly united community. For director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin, who makes his feature debut after a series of award-winning shorts, including Glory At Sea, it started with a question that had been on his mind for a long time: why do people stay in the places they love, with the people they love, even when they know big trouble is on the way?
The culture we found when making Beasts was unique. With each film we try to build that special culture, but it wasn’t until we traveled all the way down the bayou, that we really found a soul-mate in the communities at the end of the road. Their spirit elevated the meaning of community for me, and brought it from being a mantra about grassroots art, to being a life philosophy around which to build the epic of Hushpuppy and the Bathtub. Isle de Jean Charles, Pointe Aux Chenes, and Montegut are full of people that have been knocked down and rebuilt themselves back up so many times that they truly know what's important. There's a real knowledge that everything you've got, every commodity, every dollar, and even the ground beneath your feet, can just go away, and what's going to be left is nature-- plants, animals, land, water… and what's invisible-- friendships, families, ancestors, communities, culture.