News / Arts & Entertainment

Survival at Stake For Girl, Dad in 'Beasts of The Southern Wild'

Quvenzhane Wallis as
Quvenzhane Wallis as "Hushpuppy" and Dwight Henry as "Wink" on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Mary Cybulski)
Alan Silverman
HOLLYWOOD – Beasts of the Southern Wild, the small film from a new director, won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Festival and then the prestigious Camera D'Or at Cannes. It's a tale of survival in a rural community of the Louisiana bayou. The emotional drama has critics standing up and cheering.

"The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts - even the smallest piece - the entire universe will get busted,"  tiny six-year-old philosopher Hushpuppy tells her father in the movie. Hushpuppy and her father, a hard-drinking scavenger named Wink, live in a ramshackle bayou settlement they call "The Bathtub". The settlement is about to be washed away by a powerful hurricane.

Director and co-writer Benh Zeitlin says although the location is fictional,  the drama is real.

"It certainly is inspired by a lot of things that have happened," he explains. "Storms have always come, and I wanted to tell a story about living in a place that, every summer, the possibility of getting wiped off the map exists …and what it is like to stand strong there, refuse to leave and fight for it."

No one in the cast had ever acted, including New Orleans baker Dwight Henry who co-stars as Wink and understands the father's "tough love" parenting.

"You have to understand the region they live in on the Gulf Coast. We often have to go through dangerous situations, whether you are a child or an adult or senior citizen, you have to endure the possibility of losing your home, losing your loved ones, being displaced and things like that," Henry notes. "So I was constantly trying to emphasize that she needs to learn these things very fast."

Quvenzhane Wallis, 8, stars as Hushpuppy.

"It was fun because I really wasn't expecting all of this commotion and dirtiness and stuff like that, because I'm not that kind of person. I'm just relaxed …and clean. They actually had me jumping in mud!" she says.

Director Ben Zeitlin and Quvenzhane Wallis on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Jess Pinkham)Director Ben Zeitlin and Quvenzhane Wallis on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Jess Pinkham)
Director Ben Zeitlin and Quvenzhane Wallis on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Jess Pinkham)
Director Ben Zeitlin and Quvenzhane Wallis on the set of Beasts of The Southern Wild (Photo: Fox Searchlight / Jess Pinkham)
Director Zeitlin explains that Hushpuppy survives the harsh environment with the help of fantasies about aurochs, prehistoric beasts that give the story its title.

"I tried to think back to the way that I experienced the world when I was six," he explains. "I wanted to make a film that didn't condescend toward that and say 'oh, it's just a kid seeing things.' I actually took it kind of seriously and respected that point of view because to me she is the wise woman of the film and is the one who has both the strength and the sweetness to preserve this culture inside of herself."

Beasts of the Southern Wild was filmed on location along the Gulf coast of Louisiana.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley












Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”