Sometimes, when I hear a certain poem read aloud or when I see a certain film trailer, I discover that I am holding my breath. The occasions are rare, and they always take me by surprise.
On a recommendation from my cousin Juan earlier this summer, I watched the trailer for the fantasy drama “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and it immediately stole my breath. The movie tells the story of Hushpuppy, a six-year-old who lives with her father and a patchwork of poor neighbors who have become their family. They learn to survive together on a bayou island called “The Bathtub” that has been cut off from the rest of New Orleans by a manmade levee. The film is heavily influenced by the social injustices and racial inequalities of the Hurricane Katrina tragedy, one of the deadliest hurricanes in U.S. history.
For this, his first ever feature, director Benh Zeitlin has so far won two of the movie industry’s biggest awards: the Caméra d’Or at Cannes and the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. They are well deserved. Every frame of “Beasts of the Southern Wild” brims with energy and truth– no matter how ugly or uncomfortable those energies and truths may be. Through her thoughts and deeds, Hushpuppy shows an uncanny fearlessness throughout the movie that communicates the most resilient and the very best of the human spirit. And like the best poetry, this film forces us to face our flaws and consider how to imagine a life that’s better.