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DID YOU READ

“Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Benh Zeitlin on the score, his young star and creating the Bath Tub

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“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is already this year’s little indie that could. It won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Caméra D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and most recently the Audience Award at the Los Angeles Film Festival. And for good reason. The movie is a spectacular hat tip to the resilience of those who live in Louisiana as well as being a grander folk tale told through the eyes of a six-year-old.

IFC got the chance to catch up with director Benh Zeitlin when he was in Los Angeles to promote the movie before its premiere at the LA Film Festival. We chatted about everything from the movie’s fantastic young lead, Quvenzhane Wallis, to the impressive score he and his best friend Dan Romer wrote in their Brooklyn basement, and everything in between.

IFC: How did you construct a fantasy location that felt as real as the Bath Tub?

BEN ZEITLIN: It’s all built out of real things. It’s not like an imagined place. It’s a series of things that don’t necessarily co-exist at once, but which all exist within the region. I sort of think of it as the island of Louisiana that encompasses New Orleans culture, Creole culture, Cajun culture, and sort of combines a rural mentality and a city mentality in a way that doesn’t exist but all those places have this sort of commonality in their fearlessness, and so certain things about it just made me feel like they could blend.

But there are places, at least 40 years ago. The island where we shot, Isle de Jean Charles, was this completely self-sufficient [community]. Fishing, farming, raising livestock, totally French-speaking, own educational system, just totally off the grid, and it’s shot there, and I think the difference is just that that was a Native American population with a very specific culture that this film isn’t about, it’s about a certain kind of culture, but certainly it’s inspired by those people and people all facing kind of the extinction of their land and their place.

The reason it feels real is because it’s all built with real stuff. We don’t paint things to look like bricks. We put the bricks there.

IFC: And yet at the same time it is this fable, in a way. What about you as a filmmaker made you interested in this blend of fantasy and firmly rooted reality?

BZ: Well I started in animation, so I think that’s part of it. I think I’ve always been interested in telling sort of these like epic folk tales or myths, so that’s probably the way my head works a bit. My parents are folklorists, they probably filled my head with a bunch of nonsense. I’m interested in mythology and big stories that take on huge questions that can kind of speak universally. I don’t want things to be rooted in kind of the specifics of politics or the specifics of anything. I want to sort of talk broadly and tell kind of Bible stories, or something like that.

The reality and fantasy in this movie, to me, is actually all really just about it’s a film from the reality of a six-year-old. It’s from a time when you don’t really parse out what’s in your imagination and what’s happening, so I just wanted to make a film that respected that. I love kids and I think that they’re smarter than adults 80 or 90 percent of the time, so I wanted to make a film that respected that reality and that perspective and didn’t question, oh, she’s just imagining that or that’s not real. Just give her the movie.

IFC: Speaking of which, Quvenzhane is a little powerhouse in this movie and it’s the first time that she’s acted, so how did you find her and how were you able to draw that performance out of her?

BZ: We just looked real hard. We looked at 4000 kids across eight parishes, tried to see every kid in Louisiana basically, but it’s in her. The very first time I saw her, she was like fierce and defiant and wise beyond her years. She was five years old when she came in and she had this focus that we hadn’t seen from kids twice her age. She’s some sort of supernatural creature that came to us. The performance is like a real collaboration. You don’t have to sort of talk down to her like a kid or trick her into feeling things. She can act and we have a sort of like brother/sister relationship which it’s unclear who’s the older brother and who’s the younger one, but you can take her aside.

You always have to play on set, you’ve got to sort of defy the stress of a movie set and make it fun but you can, when things are going wrong, take her aside and say, here’s what your character’s thinking, here’s where what they’re thinking changes, when you look over here, I want you to squint your eyes because and feel like the sun’s in them — she can do all that stuff. She’s incredible. No one in the film had ever acted before at all, and she, yeah, I don’t know, she’s born to do this.

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Final Countdown

The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at IFC.com

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…