Beasts of the Southern Wild: organic filmmaking

“The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right,” declares Hushpuppy, the fierce, nappy-headed girl at the center of this extraordinary southern gothic. Played with iron conviction by young Quvenzhane Wallis, Hushpuppy lives with her father in a wild, ramshackle community, called the Bathtub for its precarious location on a post-Katrina flood plain near the Gulf of Mexico. As her remark might suggest, the movie throbs with a religious belief in the natural world’s interconnectedness, and its setting is a poetic juxtaposing of industrial garbage and oceanic splendor. Writer-director Benh Zeitlin, who started out as an animator, drew on a close-knit crew of former New Yorkers who now call New Orleans home and have tried to combine film production with community education; this organic approach is evident in the movie, whose eccentricity seems to grow right out of the red clay.