That term first came to my mind when, as a child, I’d try to say “stream of consciousness” and end up with “brainflow.” It seems to fit here.

Welcome to the ramblings of my mind. (For now, these ones revolve mostly around films.)

Beasts of the Southern Wild & Daughters of the Dust

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 2:50 pm—Film

Beasts of the Southern Wild (USA 2012, Drama/Fantasy), Writers: Benh Zeitlin, Lucy Alibar; Director: Benh Zeitlin

Daughters of the Dust (USA/UK 1991, Drama/Romance), Writer/Director: Julie Dash

I almost wrote about Beast of the Southern Wild in my 2012 year-end “wrap-up,” but I just couldn’t crunch it in; there’s so much to say about it. I still won’t be writing it justice here, largely because it’s been too long since I’ve seen the movie. But here it is anyway. It’s too special not to include. And it continues to remind me of another unique film, which I saw even longer ago, in my film school days, but still want to call to your attention: Daughters of the Dust.

Beasts and Daughters are both first-time feature films by American directors, who explore American subcultures (or co-cultures) by stirring up fantasy and “reality” to create highly unusual, very impactful works. They’re more multimedia poems than traditional narrative movies, relying heavily on atmosphere and setting to capture the spirit of a place and time, and to create lyrical, poignant worlds. The films are also both narrated by otherworldly young girls.

Beasts of the Southern Wild is based on Lucy Alibar’s stage play Juicy and Delicious. Its narrator is the film’s main character, Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis), a six-year-old living in a Louisiana bayou community called the Bathtub. With a missing mother and an ailing, alcoholic father named Wink (Dwight Henry), Hushpuppy is left to raise herself, and she does so with great courage and imagination. As the Bathtub braces for a Katrina-like storm, and Wink’s health deteriorates, the young girl carries on, even as she sees her world flooded with rising waters and stampeding aurochs—fantastical prehistoric creatures that symbolize the impending destruction.

Daughters of the Dust is narrated by the unborn child of the one of the characters. (Though being unborn doesn’t prevent her from gracing the screen now and then, in the form of a spirit.) The film is set in 1902 on a small island off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina, which is home to the women of the African-American Peazant family—all members of a Gullah community. As the family prepares to migrate north, their story serves as something of a microcosm, exploring the clash of ancient cultures against modern influences.

There’s a lot more to know about these fascinating films. In addition to being significant and powerful as finished products (Daughters of the Dust was the first feature film by an African-American woman to get a general theatrical release in the U.S.), they each have interesting production backgrounds (Beasts of the Southern Wild involved casting non-actors and working from an unfinished script that was developed throughout the filming process). If you’re interested, check out writer/producer/director Julie Dash’s book, Daughters of the Dust: The Making of an African American Woman’s Film, or the Creators Project documentary on the making of Beasts of the Southern Wild.

I hope you’ll be able to watch the films, too. Beasts of the Southern Wild should be easy to find, as it’s nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Actress (Wallis). Daughters of the Dust will be a little more elusive, but it’s around—try treasure troves like Ottawa’s Glebe Video International.

2 Responses

  1. Curtis W. Jackson


    Thank you for your review of these films, I hope to view them both sometime in the future. Many years ago I attempted to watch Daughters of the Dust after reading critical praise of it. At the time there were too many distractions in the surrounding area to focus on the story. Hopefully there will be another opportunity.


  2. amanda

    Thanks for your comment, Curtis. I hope you’re able to watch ‘Daughters of the Dust’ another time – it’s certainly worthwhile.

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