I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, directed by Benh Zeitlin, yesterday afternoon, and fell in love with the music. Yes, some of it was a quintessential score, with precisely timed swells to engage the emotions of the viewer, but the fantastic Cajun music made me want to dance (but probably not drink) along with the people of The Bathtub, the backwater South Louisiana community idealized in this film. Oddly, however, this was one film where I thought the parts were better than the whole.
There were numerous gushing reviews from audience members during the Q&A, calling the film “incredible” and “life-changing.” I certainly would not go that far. I thought that the storyline, while fantastical and magical, was not tightly tied together. I’m fine with meandering and exploring, as long as there is purpose. There was purpose to the courageous Hushpuppy’s travels, but I think that it was stretched too thin across the miles she covers. Perhaps if I were from Southern Louisiana I might appreciate or identify with this film more.
The cast, most of whom had no previous acting experience, was fantastic. The characters were vivid and distinctive and it was great fun to meet them both during the Q&A and in the lobby. You could see how much of their true personalities and verve were captured on screen. Quvenzhane Wallis (don’t ask me how to pronounce it!), the star of the film, captured everyone’s heart, both on screen and off. She was found at a local library in Louisiana and loves to read and doesn’t have a favorite book because she likes them all! That’s the kind of kid I like.
I waited anxiously for to catch a ride down to the Tower and we miraculously found a parking spot less than a block away and made into the theater with five minutes to spare before Filly Brown began. This was another enjoyable film – 3/3 for the day! All of the press that Gina Rodriguez has been receiving is well deserved (she has been dubbed “the queen of Sundance” by Rolling Stone Magazine.) Her talented and accomplished fellow cast members also deserve acknowledgement. As Rodriguez’s onscreen little sister, Chrissie Fit did a great job capturing the yearning, confusion, and frustration of a 17-year old. She was also charming at the Q&A.
The directors Youssef Delara and Michael D. Olmos were obviously successful at bringing the audience along on Filly Brown’s journey given the noticeable sniffles and laughter. This film sparked much more discussion between my mother, my aunt, and I than expected, especially after meeting the directors and producer. This film wants to capture the Latino perspective while being a human-interest story accessible to all. Was Filly Brown successful to this aim? Yes and no. The visceral reaction of the audience suggests the former. However, this film embraced its identity as a Latino film, despite showing only a small slice of this diverse population, and thus may isolate many viewers. Furthermore, Filly Brown promotes revenge and violence, perhaps not the best message to be sending to youth. Is this dichotomy between cultural identity and accessibility possible? Interesting questions arose out of this viewing, to say the least. During the Q&A one audience member expressed her hope that this film will be shown to educators to increase understanding of all the external factors that minority students have to deal with. Does this not promote stereotypes, too? I’m not sure that Filly Brown is the right film to broach such topics.
Last and least, I finished the day with Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place, a childlike former rocker’s coming-of-age story. This was so not for me. There were enough moments of laughter to keep me in my seat (okay, that wasn’t the only reason,) but this journey of a disconnected middle-aged man did not connect with me. The pacing was smooth, but painfully slow. I still love Frances McDormand, though.
I’ll be back for more this afternoon.