Beasts of the Southern Wild

Standard Culture interviews Benh Zeitlin

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What is it about Louisiana that appeals to you so strongly?

I think there’s a difference in what people value here. It’s not a place that’s ambitious. You know people here for six years and still have no idea what their job is. Your personal value isn’t based on that. People here are judged on their joy. It’s like, How much joy do you have? There’s a real freedom and fearlessness and a kind of relief from superficial success. There’s an enlightened notion that all that stuff just isn’t that important, because every commodity has been taken away from people so many times. There’s an appreciation for things that are actually important. It may appear downtrodden—it’s certainly not a rich town and doesn’t have that kind of first-world technology and progress feel when you’re here—but I don’t think people would consider themselves downtrodden. I think people consider themselves a little bit freer.

Do you drink? There was a point in the movie when we were wondering if things would be different if they just drank a tiny bit less.

I do, yes. Proudly. It’s a party culture. You could look at it as a movie about a bunch of alcoholics living in the woods, sure, but that would be inaccurate. It’s like, if the culture were more ambitious and didn’t appreciate partying would it be more successful by the terms of New York City? Yes. But those aren’t the terms down here. The terms are: How much are you enjoying your life? How much are you celebrating your culture and your friends and your people? People celebrate by dancing and drinking and that’s the culture. People can look down on that but that’s bringing a different cultural lens.

The Standard Hotel’s Standard Culture interviewed Benh Zeitlin about New York, the future, and Louisiana party culture. Read it all here.
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  1. altagracia gonzalez

    Beloved, I understand you have a wonderful film. i live in summille south carolina. is there anyway it can be seen again in south carolina? Will it be for sale soon?

    I have a birthday coming up and this would be a good gift to myself. perhaps I can help you to have it bee shown again in my “small town”

    In love light and inner happiness and joy

    Aug 19, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink
  2. Damon

    Honestly, what else can you say to Ben and Lucy but “thank you” for this awe-inspiring tale? That term gets thrown around, a lot, but the film truly inspires awe about a whole host of things you witness.

    Ben, coming into the movie, I had very few expecations, mostly because no one was able to explain to me what kind of movie it was (and after viewing, I see exactly why it’s hard to put into words). The only expectations I had were the basic ones: a beginning, middle and end all neatly tied up to digest at the end. It didn’t give you that, thank god.

    Ben, this movie doesn’t give the viewer what it wants; this movie gives them what they need, and for that we are exceedingly thankful.

    Aug 20, 2012 at 12:44 am | Permalink
  3. Esmerelda

    My Father was from Texas. He drank and he made fantastic hush puppies. He ladopted me, he loved me , he terrified me and he hit me when he drank. I loved him so much. Part of me is Hushpuppy looking at the world through 3 ‘ tall eyes and standing up in defiance with wonder. I’m old now and just saw the film yesterday . I have seen every great film since 1962 and this is perhaps the best one i’ve seen! I love this country and what America really is warts and all and you captured it . I am still affected by it today and can’t wait to make sure everyone I know sees it. Thank you so much for making it!

    Aug 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

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