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London Film Festival 2012 – day five: Beasts of the Southern Wild

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  Tuesday 16th October 2012
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Tuesday 16th October 2012
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Sunday 14th October, 6pm – Hackney Picturehouse

Levees are the walls built along rivers in the Southern American states to prevent flooding of the low-lying lands. Often the poorest areas are in the immediate danger zone, but this film focuses on those who already live on the wrong side of the levee. These folk are the poorest of the poor, living in ramshackle squalor, patching together makeshift dwellings from scraps. Their existence is almost post-apocalyptic and joyfully self-sufficient. They know how to have a good time and how to look out for their own.

Hushpuppy only has her father, but something is wrong with him. At six, she is still young enough to confuse stories with reality and to believe that a distant flashing light might be her missing mother.

There is a wonderful metaphor running through this film. Prehistoric Ice-Age creatures Hushpuppy has heard of begin to thaw and threaten as real dangers close in. A big, devastating, cinema-shattering storm washes away most of the community and their means of subsistence. But worse is the danger of evacuation and leaving the area that they belong to and that belongs to them, their particular corner of the universe, the Bathtub.

This is a riveting, extraordinary film, and the creation of a modern myth. We see the world through Hushpuppy’s eyes, just accepting horror or death as part of how everything fits together. Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy is simply a wonder.

What binds the people of the Bathtub together is not homespun wisdom, but an earthier survival and determination to be as they are, where they are, and to die right.

Verdict: •••••

 Eleanor MacFarlane

Read more reviews from the 56th London Film Festival here.

Watch the trailer for Beasts of the Southern Wild here: