“Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a truly unique film directed by Benh Zeitlin, is part magical tale and part heroine’s quest. It tells the story of Hushpuppy, a stubborn six-year-old resident of a region along the US Gulf coast called the Bathtub.
Early in the movie, we learn that the area is aptly named as drenching rain falls fast and dislodges its community members from their homes. The hurricane leaves Hushpuppy and her father, Wink, floating in a boat along the flood waters in search of their friends, a cast of characters as charmingly quirky and upbeat as they are dignified and resilient. In the wake of the storm, the band of friends shares meals and pools its resources while plotting how to stay in the Bathtub despite local government pressure to move to nearby disaster housing.
“Beasts” portrays the tension between local government relief efforts and the Bathtub community as more of a nuisance than a true quandary. Viewers are never led to believe that Hushpuppy and Wink belong anywhere other than in the Bathtub—they seem to source their food and happiness from the very waters that pushed them out—and their struggle to stay in their home and among friends is deeply relatable.
The film also succeeds as an ecological fable by showing us how just one storm can bring homelessness and displacement to a family. As I viewed the challenges of the floodplain through Hushpuppy’s eyes, I rooted for her to find safety and comfort in a moment and place of uncertainty. Following the storm, the Bathtub is clearly uninhabitable—its receding waters reveal an environment decimated by the relentless flooding—but it is also home to the people who live there and I couldn’t help but grip it as tightly as they do.
OxfamBuzzList is a new blog series about the movies, books, blogs, TV shows, music, and more that have Oxfam staff and supporters talking. Please leave a comment, or offer us your own contribution (400 words or less). E-mail Andrea Perera, Oxfam America’s Web Editor, at [email protected].