Behn Zeitlin Beasts

From frame one of Benh Zeitlin‘s debut feature Beasts of the Southern Wild, it was obvious this was the work of a rising auteur. The entire film was filled with visuals, choices and performances unlike anything audiences had seen before. A whole new world, built one an impressive low budget scale. Beasts went on to four Oscar nominations along with dozens of other awards and anointed Zeitlin as a filmmaker whose work we’d be keeping a close eye on.

Since the Oscars, the director has been relatively quiet and now we know why. He’s been working hard on developing a new film that will, similarly, create a new believable and wild world. Read More »

In each year, there are a handful of smaller films that come seemingly out of nowhere to blow everyone away and achieve box office success. One such title from the current crop of festival hits is the bayou-set fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild, which garnered raves at Sundance and hasn’t stopped raking in the compliments ever since.

A movie this heartfelt and imaginative would be impressive coming from any corner of the filmmaking universe, but what makes Beasts‘ success even more exciting is that it comes from a relatively inexperienced cast and crew — starting with first-time feature director Benh Zeitlin. In a new featurette, Zeitlin takes the Creators Project with him to Louisiana to explore the set, discuss his Court 13 filmmaking collective, ponder his inspirations, and basically explain how his indie gem came to life. Watch it after the jump.

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The most striking film of the summer is Benh Zeitlin‘s first feature Beasts of the Southern Wild. The movie follows a young girl, Hushpuppy, as her patched-together coastal world starts to crumble. Her father falls prey to a sickness, and her home is destroyed, as giant horned boars, called Aurochs, are freed from icy prisons before rampaging towards Hushpuppy in a charge of… well, that’s the part I’ll leave to the film.

While Beasts isn’t much of a spoil-able story, this featurette might give a bit more away than some like. So those who have seen the film are a better audience for this than others. The Aurochs have a heavy presence in the story, and seeing them created in very simple ways provides a stark contrast to the images in the movie.

Take a look at how tiny pigs became monsters, below. Read More »

Editor’s Note: We’re re-running Germain’s review of this film from Sundance, as Beasts of the Southern Wild is in theaters now, and very much deserves your attention.

When the film world converged on Park City, Utah for the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, several movies were highly anticipated. Beasts of the Southern Wild was not one of them. But in the truest and most exciting tradition of this legendary film festival, word of mouth after the first screening spread like wildfire and Benh Zeitlin‘s directorial debut became the talk of the town. Fox Searchlight purchased the film for distribution and screenings later in the week all sold out.

So does Beasts of the Southern Wild live up to those wild expectations? Absolutely. It creates an entire new world where a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) lives in squalor with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). When Wink gets sick, Hushpuppy’s world is almost literally turned upside down and she must come to grips with her inner strength, her mortality, and a whole lot more.

After the jump, read more about this fantastic film or – if you aren’t in a reading mood – watch a video blog featuring Peter and myself. Read More »

Forget costumed heroes, vampire hunters, rogue assassins, and ’80s action stars — the summer flick I’m really dying to see centers around a six-year-old girl. Beasts of the Southern Wild, a fantasy drama from first-time director Benh Zeitlin, flew almost completely under the radar before it hit Sundance in January. In the months since, however, it feels like no one’s been able to stop raving about it.

That kind of buzz can get downright annoying when a film takes too long to jump from the festival circuit into theaters, but fortunately Fox Searchlight isn’t holding out too long for this one and has it slated to open later this month. The first trailer released last month offered a small glimpse of the movie’s magic, and now they’ve given us an enchanting new clip and an intriguing featurette to go with it.

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Almost every year, people leave the Sundance Film Festival talking about a film no one had heard of before the festival began. This year, that movie – without a shadow of a doubt – was the breathtaking Beasts of the Southern WildBenh Zeitlin‘s directorial debut creates a fascinating and magical new world that both feels real and fantastic at the same time. The story focuses on a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy (Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives in squalor with her father Wink (Dwight Henry). When Wink gets sick, Hushpuppy’s world is almost literally turned upside down and she must come to grips with her inner strength, her mortality, and a whole lot more.

Fox Searchlight bought the rights to the film and will release it on June 27. Now, the first trailer has just been released. Check it out below. Read More »

Briefly: The problem with following film news but not attending the Sundance Film Festival is that each year, there are a few highly praised titles that take forever to hit regular theaters. Take Sound of My Voice, for example. Though it helped mark Brit Marling as one of the hottest talents to emerge from last year’s event, non-festivalgoers will have waited for over a year to watch the movie by the time it finally gets a theatrical release this April.

Thankfully, Fox Searchlight is moving a bit faster on this year’s most buzzed-about film, Benh Zeitlin‘s Louisiana-set fantasy drama Beasts of the Southern Wild. The company snapped up U.S. distribution rights following Beasts‘ first screening, and it’s now slated the Grand Jury Prize winner for a limited release on June 29. Still a few months away, but it could be so much worse. While you wait, revisit Germain’s review of the film, and check out Zeitlin’s earlier short film Glory at Sea.

As for cinephiles abroad, while we don’t have all the details on international releases of the film just yet, there’s some good news for Spanish folks. Arthouse Golem Distribucion has just picked up all Spanish distribution rights to Beasts, in a deal with Toronto-based sales company eOne Films International.

[Sources: Box Office Mojo Twitter, Variety]

As I’ve started to read about the Sundance film Beasts of the Southern Wild (check our review here), what keeps coming to mind is something like the early films of David Gordon Green filtered through the sensibility of author China Mieville. The film shows us the world through the eyes of a six-year old girl, but that world isn’t quite ‘real.’ It is the creation of director Benh Zeitlin. His landscape is based in part on a post-Katrina Louisiana landscape, but it also has many other elements, some realistic and some fantastic, woven into its fabric.

But rather than looking to some esoteric and possibly way off-base comparison to get an idea of what Beasts of the Southern Wild might be like, let’s look back to the 2008 short film from the same director. Glory at Sea is also by Zeitlin, and like his new feature the short is also set in a landscape that is at least influenced by the aftereffects of Hurricane Katrina. But this is no When the Levees Broke; rather it is a film that uses images that suggest a devastated Louisiana as part of a story about following faith and vision even in the aftermath of apocalypse.

Zeitlin breaks many rules of shooting low-budget indie films: he shoots with kids, and on the water, and with a couple of wild, homemade sets. Well, ‘sets’ is a loosely applicable term, but you’ll see what I mean. Glory at Sea is a pretty fantastic 25-minute short, and I highly recommend giving it a look. Read More »

Fox Searchlight has become a big buyer at Sundance in the past couple years, and this year has already picked up two of the most acclaimed films playing the fest. Last night the company grabbed the rights to the John Hawkes/Helen Hunt film The Surrogate, which is already generating Oscar talk for next year thanks to the strength of Hawkes’ performance.

And now Fox Searchlight has finalized a deal to distribute the film Beasts of the Southern Wild. Neither Pete nor Germain has seen the film yet, so we haven’t covered it up until this point, but the movie quickly became one of the Sundance films I’m most interested in seeing, as early reviews have used language like “remarkable, beautiful, moving and astonishing” to describe the story that gets inside the head of a young girl worried about the end of her universe. Read More »

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Sundance Labs

Sundance has announced the 12 projects they have chosen for the 2009 Directors and Screenwriters lab. Why should you care? Well because the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program has hand picked some of the most original filmmakers of the last 28 years.

Here are some of the films that have come out of the program: Quentin Tarantino‘s Reservoir Dogs, Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Hard Eight, Kimberly Peirce‘s Boy’s Don’t Cry, Darren Aronofsky‘s Requiem for a Dream, John Cameron Mitchell‘s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Peter Sollett‘s Raising Victor Vargas, Miranda July‘s Me and You and Everyone We Know, Ryan Fleck‘s Half Nelson, and most recently Cary Fukunaga‘s Sin Nombre and Alex Rivera‘s Sleep Dealer.

So, what 12 projects have been chosen for this year’s Summer labs? Find out after the jump.
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