Festivals & Awards
Every day at the Cannes festival opens up the possibility of surprises, upsets, or major revelations. As Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence of Arabia" said, "Nothing is written." Film history is made here all the time, and I think some history was made today with the international debut of the American independent film "Beasts of the Southern Wild," by Benh Zeitlin, screening in the "A Certain Regard" section of the festival.. A first feature, it competes for the Camera d'Or. The world premiere was at Sundance back in January (where it won the Grand Jury Prize), but the high profile Cannes exposure will surely bring the film and its young star the worldwide attention it deserves.
"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is set in a wild coastal swamp on the Gulf coast, in a watery area referred to as "the Bathtub," where the towers and smokestacks of chemical plants and refineries spread across the distant horizon. It's a post-Katrina allegory that adopts many of the real-life images and circumstances of that disaster to create a purely mythic fable full of visceral visions, primal emotions, and haunting reminders of the inescapable cycle of birth, life, death, and decay.
At the center of the film is Hushpuppy, a feisty, unafraid six-year-old who lives with her sickly and often unstable dad in an isolated wilderness squatters' community where they live off the land by trapping and fishing. Their home, such as it is, is the wreck of a small ramshackle trailer; their boat is the bed of an old pickup truck floating over 55-gallon drums. That mankind lives within nature's unforgiving food chain is a daily reality for these two. As Hushpuppy's teacher Miss Bathsheba reminds her handful of students, "Everything that lives is meat. I'm meat; y'all's asses is meat; all part of the buffet of the universe."