If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you’ll know that we’re fans of bell hooks’ critiques, essays, analyses, etc, on all things *black cinema.* We’ve referenced her words from time to time. When bell speaks, we pay attention, whether we agree with her or not.
In an essay she penned for Mark Anthony Neal’s New Black Man blog, which I’m subscriber of (and you should be as well), she offers her interpretation and critique of a film that we’ve all been very enthusiastic about here on S&A, Behn Zeitlin’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild.
In short, she’s definitely not a fan; I wouldn’t be posting this if she praised it as we did. I love reading (and sharing) differing opinions, especially from voices I respect. I think there’s something to be learned from doing that.
The piece is titled No Love in the Wild; it’s lengthy, but worth reading. I embedded the first 2 paragraphs below; for the rest of it, click HERE to read.
An often repeated assertion in the body of film criticism I have written is the assertion that movies do not just mirror the culture of any given time; they also create it With this assertion in mind I leaving a viewing of the film Beasts of the Southern Wilds deeply disturbed and militantly outraged by the images I have just seen. Having traveled with friends an hour to see this acclaimed movie, I have no way home if I leave the cinema; there were images in the movie that I just did not want inside my head. Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hahn tells students that putting images inside our heads is just like eating. And if “you are what you eat” it is equally true that to a grave extent we are what we see. Having read wonderful reviews of the film, pushed by friends and colleagues alike to see it, I was amazed that what I saw they did not see. The majority of folks I talked with, like the reviewers, praised the film’s compelling cinematography, the magical realism, and the poetics of space. In his long affirming review in the New Yorker critic David Denby praises the film, calling it a “vibrant feature.”
Sadly, all the vibrancy in this film is generated by a crude pornography of violence. At the center of this spectacle is the continuous physical and emotional violation of the body and being of a small six year old black girl called Hushpuppy (played by the ten year old actress Quzenhane Wallis). While she is portrayed as continuously resisting and refusing to be a victim, she is victimized. Subject to both romanticization as a modern primitive and eroticization her plight is presented as comically farcical.
Again, for the rest of it, click HERE to read. As I hope many of you have seen the film, I’m interested in reading your reactions to it, as well as to bell hooks’ critique of it.