Film Analysis #1 by Jane Spartan
Beasts of the Southern Wild, a film directed by Benh Zeitlin, is a movie starring a six-year old girl named Hushpuppy.  Played by Quvenzhané Wallis, Hushpuppy is a young girl who lives with her father, Wink, in a small town in Louisiana that they refer to as the “Bathtub.”
Young Hushpuppy goes to school in her small community where she learns about Aurochs, which are ancient beasts that used to roam the lands before being tamed by ancestors. With the threat of climate change and the melting of ice caps, the teacher warns the class that they could once again be released. Meanwhile, a storm builds up and floods the town, leaving the community defenseless. The story is ultimately about Hushpuppy conquering the fear of losing a parent, learning how to survive on her own, and helping save her community.
According to the director, the film is created to depict the impact of climate change on the state of Louisiana. The movie was shot near New Orleans on the Isle de Jean Charles.In recent years, natural disasters such as hurricanes have caused a rise in sea levels, placing Louisiana in danger. Unfortunately, many wetlands and the habitats have been destroyed, endangering the wildlife in the area. By using mythical creatures such as Aurochs, the director hopes to incorporate a wild animal that is considered a threat to human civilization, but also endangered. The purpose, the director describes, is to provide “complete view of nature as a flowing system—something in which everything has its place and everything plays its part.”
Both animals survive in efforts of preventing the extinction of other species.Water plays an important role in society for the survival of both the human population and wildlife. The film depicts this vital role through the use of themes such as climate change, fear, and sense of home. First, climate change is incorporated throughout the movie with the melting of ice caps releasing the Aurochs. Although these ancient beasts are fantasized to portray the issue from the perspective of a naïve six-year old girl, the beasts are destructive in nature and a direct threat to civilization. This is ultimately a reminder that climate change is a current issue that needs attention before the repercussions are unrepairable. Second, the theme of fear is depicted through the use of the storm. The storm causes salt water to contaminate the fresh water supply and kill the wild life in the area. Without this food source, the environment loses its value and the people of the town need to find other alternatives. Third, the movie depicts water as a sense of home or belonging. The residents of the Bathtub that stay behind, including Hushpuppy and Wink, refuse help from the government because they do not want to lose their homes. To Hushpuppy, with the loss of her father and missing mother, this place is the only reminder she has of her family. As a result, she returns to the area and stays loyal to her community even through difficult times.
Overall, the movie is successful in its portrayal of the issues with climate change. Prior to watching the movie, I was unaware of the issues facing Louisiana and the impact that it has on people indigenous to the area. The movie serves to highlight the struggles that communities feel in efforts of trying to restore their places. The fact that the story is told from the perspective of a six-year old. This emphasizes the fear and helplessness that people feel when it comes to dealing with natural disasters. Although she is young, she has acquired more skills to survive than what most of us possess. The use of Wink’s death helps show the progression of Hushpuppy from an innocent young girl to a more mature one that understands that certain aspects of nature are uncontrollable and we can only learn to control our reactions to such events.
Jeremy Berlin, “The Story behind “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” National Geographic, July 17, 2012.