Every now and then a movie like Beasts of the Southern Wild comes along. Not very often, but every now and then a movie comes along that slams us into questions about strength, faith, fortitude, survival and community. This is one of those films that works on every level. It is visually stunning. The actors are raw and authentic. The story is rich and complex. It’s poetry without pretension. It’s more of an emotional event than it is a movie.
In the film, 6 year-old Hushpuppy faces the unraveling of the Universe. She and her father live in an impoverished region of southern Louisiana called The Bathtub. While the community is poor (and I mean poor, the kind of poverty we rarely see in film), they delight in the sense of community they’ve created far away from malls and shops and, well, civilization. As she tells us, The Bathtub “has more holidays than the whole rest of the world.” But the community is shattered when a violent storm wreaks havoc. Several of the folk who refuse to abandon their home band together to make shelter, find food and rebuild their lives, so very far apart from the rest of the world.
Hushpuppy observes, “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece… the whole universe will get busted.” When Wink, her father, falls ill, the universe shifts and those things that were once aligned are no longer holding together the whole. Ice caps melt, storms rage, and prehistoric animals roam the land. In the midst of survival, she and her community literally cling to floating, make shift homes.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 issue of TILT Magazine ~ Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology.
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Jean-Anne Sutherland is assistant professor of sociology at University of North Carolina, Wilmington, USA, with one of her research focuses being the study of sociology through film.
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