Beasts of the Southern Wilds (2012)

Benh Zeitlin directs Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry and Lowell Landes in this grimy fantasy where a child and her alcoholic father survive after their hobo community is flooded.

For a year of my life I moonlighted as a librarian in a predominantly black girls’ school. I ran a movie club where I showed cinema that was appropriate and accessible to kids of their age. And I tried my best to make sure the DVDs chosen had positive representations of black communities and young women. It was a struggle. One movie I intended to screen, based on strong reviews and subject matter was this. I couldn’t get hold of an affordable copy at the time… And I’m so glad I didn’t. This is a very troubling view of race and poverty. I’m sure the naive intention is to show a beauty, pride and independence in living off the grid, being passionate and getting back to basics. But it just paints its lead characters as brutish, dirty, chaotic, destructive, abusive, overly emotional babies. A parade of retarded offensive tropes about how the hard headed bums and unfiltered lazy have it better and truer than us who engage in society. It is a work by a white writer and director. It stinks and feels exploitative of its child performer. Beyond that it is boring and brash and manipulative. Come see the beautiful squalor… no ta! I cannot believe I sat all the way through this trite misery porn. One of the worst and most troubling films I’ve been a witness to in quite a while. One that might have gotten me fired if it cost less than £15 in 2016, one that certainly would have lost me the trust of the kids who came and watched movies they’d never heard of on Tuesday afternoons.

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