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Sundance Review: The South Will Rise, But Not Like You Expected, In The Pagan, Powerful 'Beasts Of The Southern Wild'

  • By James Rocchi
  • |
  • January 25, 2012 2:31 PM
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Written and directed by Benh Zeitlin, whose short, "Glory at Sea," was shot through with purpose and promise, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is as stirring and striking a film as you could wish for at Sundance. Shot and set in a Louisiana community called The Bathtub, on the wrong side of the levees that stop the water from encroaching on civilization, it's at heart the story of a little girl, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) who lives with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). That synopsis does not do the film justice, though, as the story -- based on a play by Lucy Alibar -- incorporates a flood that not only drowns The Bathtub but also huge, prehistoric beasts -- Aurochs -- returning to life from the frozen icecaps and stalking, gigantically, towards Hushpuppy's world. It's a flawed comparison -- and indeed, any comparison for a work as completely and startlingly unique as this will be flawed -- but I kept imagining "Beasts of the Southern Wild" as a pagan, powerful, Godless (but not loveless or hopeless) variation on "The Tree of Life," where parents and children cope with the passage of time and the end of life in a series of moments built as much on visual poetry as character interactions.

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