Beasts of the Southern Wild, BFI London Film Festival



Beasts of the Southern Wild, a deliciously dreamy tale about a fictional Bayou community in the backwaters of Louisiana, does not so much jump off the screen as float effortlessly off it.

Made with two leads who had never acted before (it was recently denied eligibility for Screen Actors Guild Awards for this reason), it charts the fall-out from a Hurricane Katrina-like disaster through the eyes of Hushpuppy, a feisty yet fragile six-year old (played by the astoundingly good newcomer Quvenzhane Wallis) as she rubs along with her hot-tempered, alcoholic father, Wink (Dwight Henry).

This is a film that defies any attempt at logical criticism, more like a hypnotic poem or song than a film with a sensical plot.

Here is what we know for sure: Hushpuppy has lived alone with her father since her mother "swam away" many years before. We know too, from her teacher and from Hushpuppy's own musings, that one day the icecaps will melt, a flood will come and "The Bathtub", as the local community call their side of the levee, will be "just a whole bunch 'o' water". And we know that Wink is ill, seriously ill, disappearing for days on end and returning in hospital garb with a dark, ominous colour creeping through his veins and a fearful temper.

Terrified of leaving Hushpuppy alone, Wink is trying to teach her to survive without him. But she is a tragicomic caricature of an adult. She cooks for herself but uses a blowtorch to light the stove. She throws her weight around, puffing up her chest exclaiming "I'm the man!" and yelling at her father but is easily scared.

Hushpuppy is grounded in reality - she lives off the land and water around her - but it is her imagination that sets her free. She chatters away to her absent mother, and dreams vividly of aurochs, a now extinct form of cattle, except that in her mind they look more like mythological beasts.

There is humour, too, amidst the madness. When the flood finally comes and father and daughter sail through the water of what remains looking for food, a moment where the resilient youngster punches a fish in the face is unexpected to say the least.

Is Beasts this year's The Artist? Perhaps not - it is probably too bizarre to appeal to mainstream audiences and there may still be some who find its environmental undertone off-putting. But, featuring phenomenal performances and a rare, beautiful glimpse at a vanishing world, it shares with The Artist that sense of the magic of cinema, an insistence that, on screen, wondrous things can be born from the simplest ideas.

Public screenings, 12, 13, 14 October,

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers