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“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.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.