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It’s unfortunate that small-budget movies are often the most overlooked by the general public. If any film fits this stereotype, it’s “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” an independent film that has quietly become one of the year’s top films.  Directed by 30-year-old Benh Zeitlin, the film centers around the young Hushpuppy, a girl who lives on a fictionalized, isolated island in the Louisiana Bayou called the “Bathtub.”  After accidentally causing her father’s heart attack, Hushpuppy must confront a devastating storm and deadly creatures released by the melting polar ice caps, all whilst searching for her mother.

The film’s complicated, enchanting storyline incorporates several subtle (and not so subtle) references to Louisiana culture: poverty, the threat of global warming, and the strength of close-knit  communities.  Dazzling cinematography and one of the best directing jobs of the year are among the film’s primary strengths, but its greatest strength is the brilliant work of newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis.  Wallis portrays Hushpuppy with both poignant youth and surprising maturity, a role that is easily one of the best-acted of the year and arguably the most impressive.  Overall, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” is one of the most interesting and innovative films of the year, while short enough at 95 minutes for even the most skittish.

Grade: A

Pascutoi is a member of the class of 2015.

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