AFI Movie Club: BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD – American Film Institute
Beasts of the Southern Wild Film Still - Quvenzhané Wallis



BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD received an AFI AWARD in 2012 – recognizing it as culturally and artistically representative of the year’s most significant achievements in the art of the moving image. 

“At the center of this poetic storm stands Hushpuppy, a tiny heroine who towers among the toughest of the year. Hers is a triumphant tale of the mind and of the power of fantasy and folklore to carry us forward. In Hushpuppy, director Benh Zeitlin and co-writer Lucy Alibar capture the spirit of an unsung America with a commanding reminder from a small but strong voice…” -AFI AWARDS 2012



DID YOU KNOW that BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is based on the play “Juicy and Delicious” by Lucy Alibar? When it was first performed in New York City in 2007, the play featured a nine-year-old boy in the lead, and it took place in Georgia instead of Louisiana. 

DID YOU KNOW that writer/director Benh Zeitlin changed the location to Louisiana because he had spent time living there? He was particularly interested in the cultural intersection of Isle de Jean Charles, with its population of Cajun locals and two Native American tribes, the Houma and the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw. 

DID YOU KNOW that writer Lucy Alibar and writer/director Benh Zeitlin first met at a playwriting camp when they were 13 years old? 

DID YOU KNOW that Benh Zeitlin was able to finance his collaboration with Lucy Alibar on the screenplay with an $30,000 insurance settlement? A drunk driver rear-ended his car in 2008, shattering his pelvis. Zeitlin and Alibar spent six months in Pointe-aux-Chenes, Louisiana, interviewing local bayou residents and developing the script. 

DID YOU KNOW that Benh Zeitlin co-founded a filmmaking collective, Court 13, to produce the film? However, much of the financing – $1.2 million dollars – came from the New York-based non-profit Cinereach. 

DID YOU KNOW this was the first film financed by Cinereach, which previously had only awarded smaller grants to filmmakers? Other financing came in the form of grants from the Rooftop Filmmakers’ Fund, the Sundance Institute and the San Francisco Film Society. 

DID YOU KNOW the crew worked out of an abandoned gas station in Montegut, a small town in the Louisiana parish of Terrebonne? Parish resident Mike Arcenaux developed and operated the pulley system that moved Wink and Hushpuppy’s boat. 

DID YOU KNOW that Wink’s home was built by Eliza Zeitlin, the sister of writer/director Benh Zeitlin? She also lived in the shack during its construction. 

DID YOU KNOW that the large Auroch creatures were real pigs wearing specially made headdresses with horns? 

DID YOU KNOW that the film won two prizes at Sundance – the Grand Jury Prize and the Excellence in Cinematography Award; and the Cannes Film Festival’s Caméra d’Or in 2012? Despite the festival accolades, the film initially opened in only four theaters in Los Angeles and New York City. 

DID YOU KNOW that actress Quvenzhané Wallis was only five years old when she auditioned for the role of Hushpuppy? Her performance was so compelling, the filmmakers decided to change the gender of the character to a girl so they could cast the novice Louisianan. 

DID YOU KNOW that Quvenzhané Wallis received widespread critical acclaim for her performance? She was the youngest person in Oscar® history to be nominated for Best Actress, but she was deemed ineligible for a SAG Award nomination because it was her first professional role, and the film was disqualified for its low budget. 

DID YOU KNOW that BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD was nominated for four Academy Awards®– including Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture? 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog

The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-How would you describe life in the community of Bathtub? Is it foreboding or a place you’d like to experience in person? Does it remind you of other places in fiction, or in the real world? 

-Heartbeats are a recurring theme for Hushpuppy. What do you think heartbeats mean to her, and how do they impact the story? 

-In BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, events are determined by atmospheric and natural elements such as storms, ice and fire. What does this communicate about Hushpuppy’s internal and external experiences? 

-BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD depicts extremes of autonomy and isolation with family and community. Can you describe scenes in which these themes are most evident? How do these seemingly oppositional subjects come together to influence the story? 

-Were you frightened by the Aurochs? What do you think they represent? 

-In BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD, Hushpuppy sees the world through a lens that shifts between fantasy and reality. Can you describe how this is depicted in the story? What does this say about her age and her life experiences? 

-Wink and many residents of Bathtub decided to weather the storm and stay in their homes during the hurricane. Would you have remained or run away? What does this tell you about their community? 

-How would you rate BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD? 

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