Dwight Henry

The Paperboy John Cusack

Last year’s Cannes Film Festival featured this year’s Oscar winning Best Actor performance thanks to the inclusion of the wonderful The Artist in competition, and though the films seem to have been chosen for their artistry and provocative subtexts more than any really commercial pointers (as always happens the year after the festival is deemed “too commercial”), there have been some seriously fine performances this year as well. There wasn’t an Uggy this year, but there was a murdered pooch in Moonrise Kingdom, a bitey Killer Whale in Rust & Bone, and a striking performance from an armadillo in Bernardo Bertolucci’s Me and You, so we’ll have to wait and see who emerges with the best animal performance. Probably won’t come from Madagascar 3 though…so for the time being, let’s stick to the humans.

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Beasts of the Southern Wild

Cannes’ secondary competition – Un Certain Regard – offers attendees the opportunity to see innovative or intriguing projects, deemed of significance by the programme schedulers, and if there is any film in the selection which fits the bill perfectly, it is Benh Zeitlin‘s Beasts of the Southern Wild. As Kevin Kelly stated in his own review of the film, it changes the way you see movies, and Zeitlin’s first feature arrived at the festival buoyed by similarly positive reviews at Sundance. The film takes place in the Bathtub, a Southern American area outside of a government enforced levee where a community of resistant, and spirited residents live in shacks in the ominous shadow cast by global warming. Our hero is Hush Puppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), an extraordinary six year old girl who lives next door to her father Wink (Dwight Henry), living day to day on the bayou, among a colourful cascade of  carnival characters, but haunted both by the ghost of her absent mother and the threat of impending ecological doom. The narrative is driven by two flashpoint events: first Wink disappears, to return days later in a hospital gown and then a raging storm floods the Bathtub, destroying the communities homes and leaving only a small group of survivors to rebuild.

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One of the reasons that I love going to the Sundance Film Festival is that amidst the sea of angst-ridden romances, dramas that explore feelings that have long-since been forgotten about, and documentaries, you’ll sometimes find a gem that will change the way you see movies. Beasts of the Southern Wild was that film for me this year. At face value, it’s a difficult film to fully explain. A society that lives off the grid from the mainland of a country ignores the warnings that their lives are in danger should the nearby levee break. They live in ignorant bliss, reveling in their lives and calling their home “The Bathtub” in a light-hearted mocking of the fact that a wall of water could come crashing down and destroy them all.

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