Every year there’s a movie that people can’t stop talking about. They champion it to friends, they analyze it closely, and they can’t stop thinking about it afterwards. If not the movie itself, then it’s the pure bravado of the filmmaking, which leaves its mark on your imagination or, if it’s especially good, your worldview.
To experience something fresh and invigorating by a new voice — whether it’s a movie, an album, or a book — gives you this sudden feeling of endless possibility. More than that, you’re left wondering what that person will do next if this was just the first effort.
Of all the debut films last year, there’s one movie and one filmmaker who left just such an impression.
It’s a no contest, really. With Beasts of the Southern Wild, director/co-writer Benh Zeitlin has made the indie darling of the year. A work that’s fantastical and humane and rife with raw emotions, Beasts won over hardcore cineastes, jaded hipster moviegoers, and the Oprah Winfrey crowd. And amid the glowing lovefest, I remember getting into some interesting discussions with the film’s detractors about unintentional racial condescension, privilege, and poverty porn. It’s a movie that can be thought of and approached from different angles, like turning a gem around to admire the way light pours through its facets.
The film’s appeal, like its incredible score, comes from the way it conveys its ideas about family, life, death, and home in swells. These moments come in rushes like an unexpected flood, and they tap into some innate yearning. I think Beasts of the Southern Wild, even with the different socioeconomic discussions it can spur, is a movie that’s felt more than it’s intellectualized, at least initially. It makes sense since its protagonist is a little girl.
Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar have a lot to live up to for their next projects, and we wish them all the luck in the world. (Read our interview with Benh Zeitlin.)
Seth MacFarlane – Ted