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If You Liked . . . Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild"In a million years, when kids go to school, they gonna know: Once there was a Hushpuppy, and she lived with her daddy in The Bathtub." -- Beasts of the Southern Wild

With many on the Gulf Coast so recently recovering from Hurricane Isaac, the film Beasts of the Southern Wild (still in theaters) packs an emotional wallop, with its tale of Hushpuppy, her daddy and the denizens of "The Bathtub", an area beyond the levees in a Southern coastal area.  The film follows Hushpuppy as she manages to survive in this eccentric community despite the storms, her father's illness, and the strange prehistoric creatures which are making their way to the Bathtub.  Glowingly reviewed and heralded by many as the best film of 2012, the New York Times calls it "a blast of sheer, improbable joy."

The film features an amazing performance by Quvenzhané Wallis as Hushpuppy.  (Impress your friends by knowing that the pronunciation is roughly "kwa van je nay"--according to Roger Ebert's blog!)  Although Beasts of the Southern Wild is a unique filmgoing experience, a few other films in the library's collection feature a similar blend of magical realism with a young actor giving an amazing, far-beyond-their-years performance.  Pan's Labyrinth

Pan's Labyrinth, directed by Guillermo del Toro, master of phantasmagorical cinema, is a haunting fantasy-drama set in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War and detailing the strange journeys of an imaginative young girl who may be the mythical princess of an underground kingdom. 

Tarsem Singh's The Fall features another compelling child performance coupled with magical cinematic storytelling.  In a hospital on the outskirts of town, an injured stuntman, begins to tell young Alexandria, a fellow patient with a broken arm, a fantastical story about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur as the tale advances.

If it's Beasts of the Southern Wild's community beyond the levees that appeals to you, and makes you want to revisit the all-too-recent tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, check out some of the library's documentaries on the subject.

When the Levees BrokeStart with When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, Spike Lee's heart-wrenching marathon documentary.  Lee examines the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina  and the incorrigible response to the catastrophe from U.S. government agencies.  

For an even more personal documentary on Hurricane Katrina, see Trouble the Water, which takes the viewer inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never seen on screen. Incorporating home footage shot by Kimberly Rivers Roberts -- an aspiring rap artist trapped with her husband in the 9th ward -- directors/producers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal weave this insider's view of Katrina with a devastating portrait of the hurricane's aftermath.

The Weather Channel's Hurricane on the Bayou shows Louisiana before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. The documentary, originally created for Imax, follows four musicians as they explore the culture of New Orleans and shows amazing images of the natural beauty of New Orleans, accompanied by great local music.  It's a lovely depiction of the area before being devastated by Katrina.

And one more:  Spike Lee followed up When the Levees Broke with If God is Willing and da Creek Don't Rise, which focuses on the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans, five years after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and celebrates the resilient spirits of New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents.

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