It feels like a typical June evening in New Orleans. The air is heavy and thick with moisture and music. It hugs you with its warm arms and comforts you in a way that could rock you right to sleep. The sun is getting low but the heat does not subside. As the golden light from the sun begins to turn grey the streets once again light themselves with their awakened fluorescent bulbs. In the midst of what is usually the quietest time in New Orleans, a celebration is bubbling outside of the newly renovated Joy Theatre on Canal St.
Any local stumbling upon the scene would find themselves lost, dazed, or confused. Why, that appears to be a Hollywood red carpet, bulbs flashing everywhere and a crowd buzzing with anticipation. This foreign phenomenon is the New Orleans premiere of director Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild, for which a celebration of these proportions is rightfully deserved.
Zeitlin meandered his way down the carpet dressed to black tie perfection. He seemed too calm and collected to have directed this already highly acclaimed film, winner of the Camera d’Or at Cannes as well as the Sundance 2012 Grand Jury Prize and Excellence in Cinematography Awards. Zeitlin was joined on the carpet by the two stars of the film, Quvenzhané Wallis (Hushpuppy) and Dwight Henry (Wink), also dazzling in his tuxedo and red bow tie. Eager Press and local onlookers were also treated with warm southern greets from Lucy Alibar, co-writer of the film with Zeitlin, Ben Richardson (Director of Photography), Michael Gottwald (Court 13 Producer), Dan Janvery (Court 13 Producer), and Josh Penn (Court 13 Producer) all who braved the thick summer air to fuel the anticipation of their long awaited project that was about to be revealed to the home where it was born.
Once inside no time was wasted. Zeitlin took the stage to reveal that the premier at The Joy was a long time dream, now an overwhelming reality in front of his own eyes. He invited Wallis and Henry to the stage where each shared their excitement.
“Its so good to be back home,” said Henry, a ninth-ward native of New Orleans. “We’ve been all over the world showing the movie, out the country, France, going to the Ukraine and showing. We been to New York, LA, and Miami, but it feels so good to be back home where everybody can feel the movie,” Henry added. The lights dimmed, the audience was silenced, and soon we all found ourselves in The Bathtub.
The Bathtub is the home to six-year-old Hushpuppy and her father Wink. It is a small town that has more holidays than the whole rest of the world; Hushpuppy informs us, and much like the city where the movie was made, we soon see that it does. The Bathtub is a forgotten southern bayou community. It is not New Orleans. It is not Louisiana. It is a place that only exists inside the walls of this theatre. Its residents, while happy, joyous and drunk most of the day, are cut off from the rest of the world by an impossible levee. They take pride in where they live, the food they eat, the homes they built, and they protect each neighbor, black or white, like the one family that they are.
Their secluded happiness is soon threatened by an approaching storm, but many of the residents of The Bathtub cannot leave their home. Hushpuppy and Wink stay to tough out the storm. The storm is not Katrina. It is a storm that only exists within the walls of this theatre. When the rain subsides and the sun once again sheds it’s light on The Bathtub, the real story begins. Hushpuppy and Wink are forced to rebuild their future with the broken pieces of their past. Together, they begin a journey in the back of a floating pick up truck bed, picking up surviving members of their Bathtub family one at a time.
Six-year-old Hushpuppy proves to hold the wisdom of many lifetimes. She is bursting with imagination and optimistic joy. She speaks softly and eloquently and the words she chooses resonate with people of all generations. Wallis demonstrated a captivating performance where I found myself hanging on each and every thought and word. “The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece, the entire universe will get busted,” Hushpuppy says to open the film.
This is the reality she finds herself fighting through. She is aware of everything that came before her and everything that will come after. She tells us she is recording her story for the scientists in the future, and draws pictures of herself and her family throughout the film on any surface she can find. “They gonna know once their was a Hushpuppy and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub,” she adds.
By the end of the film, after a bumpy journey of survival with her father and other members of her Bathtub family by her side, young Hushpuppy is for the first time faced with death. As I witness the heartbreak and courage on the screen before my eyes I realize I have lost myself in this film, in this place. Tears puddle in my lap as Hushpuppy keeps her words steady and I’m beginning to question who the six-year-old in the room really is. “Everyone loses the thing that made them. The brave men stay and watch it happen. They don’t run,” Hushpuppy so wisely proclaims.
“When it all goes quiet behind my eyes, I see everything that made me flying around in invisible pieces. I see that I’m a little beast of a big, big universe.” –Hushpuppy
Beasts of the Southern Wild is showing in select theatres in New York and LA. The film opens nationwide on Friday July 6th.
- A Fox Searchlight and Cinereach Film
- Directed by: Benh Zeitlin
- Screenplay by: Lucy Alibar and Benh Zeitlin
- Based on the stage play “Juicy and Delicious” by: Lucy Alibar
- Produced by: Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey & Josh Penn
- Executive Produced by: Philipp Engelhorn, Paul Mezey, Michael Raisler
- Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry
- Rated PG-13 Running time 93 minutes
- Trailer/More Information:www.foxsearchlight.com/beastsofthesouthernwild
The history of the necktie is as rich and colorful as the patterns that adorn them. Designers, actors and royalty in the 1920s and 1930s left a distinctive stamp on the tie that gives the modern man the opportunity