7. "Beasts of the Southern Wild"
Surreal and beautiful, suffused with dread yet buoyed by hope and
determination, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" is a film that's
difficult to classify and impossible to forget. It tells the story of a little
girl named Hushpuppy (the astonishing Quvenzhane Wallis) and her father,
Wink (Dwight Henry), as they survive and
navigate the aftermath of a tremendous storm that devastates their isolated
bayou community known as the Bathtub. With prehistoric creatures re-emerging
around them and floodwaters drowning their very way of life, Hushpuppy and the
other inhabitants of the Bathtub somehow manage to keep themselves alive in an
ultimately indifferent world.
The allusions to post-Katrina New Orleans and other low-lying Louisiana
communities are unmistakable, yet director Benh Zeitlin's film is made even more
poignant by placing its setting just outside the real world: The Bathtub,
as evidenced more recently by the onslaught of Hurricane Sandy, could be any
community, anywhere. And while the adults in the story face their situation with
a certain grim resignation, it is Hushpuppy's indefatigable strength and
innocence that represents the best hope any of us have. She is one of the most
mesmerizing characters of the year and, like the film around her, a true
American original. -- Don Kaye
Bing: More about 'Beasts of the Southern
Wild' | More on Quvenzhane Wallis
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(Fox Searchlight Pictures)