UPDATE: After sharing this post on the S&A Facebook page, another reader (thanks Nerissa!!) chimed in with the following: “They are currently on Montserrat, where much of the production will be done. Benh also wrote much of the screenplay there. They did a casting call on [the] island and yes they were looking for children primarily of African descent. I’ll be happy to fill you in as more news is released.” I’ve emailed Court13, the production company behind the film, for more info; when I receive an official response, I’ll share here. My original post follows below…
A reader in Barbados (thanks Jonathan!) sent this to me this morning. A Google search for further information on its contents returned nothing of much use; although, coincidentally, I did find a Tweet, posted just this morning, from the Dubai Film Festival (in Arabic, which I obviously had translated), mentioning that the filmmaker was prepping the project.
It’s a July 24, 2015 report from the Antigua newspaper, The Observer, announcing a casting call for “Beasts of the Southern Wild” director Behn Zeitlin’s next film, which will be titled “Wendy,” and is described as a fantasy adventure about a tribe of children living on a remote island, who never age.
Here’s some of the report from the paper:
“He took the 2012 Academy Awards by storm and catapulted then nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis to stardom and earned her a nomination for Best Actress. Now the film’s director, Benh Zeitlin, is in Antigua to shoot his next film. The new movie, tentatively named “Wendy” is a fantasy adventure film about a tribe of children living on a remote island who never age. But before delving too deeply into Zeitlin’s new project, the director and producer will be hosting a screening of Beasts of the Southern Wild on August 16, complete with a Q &A session with Zeitlin afterwards. Ambassador at large for the development of film in Antigua & Barbuda, Bert Kirchner says Zeitlin’s new film is the biggest production ever to come to Antigua. “In general, any production we can bring to our shores will be beneficial to the development of the film industry,” he said. “We have a lot of talent here.” Zeitlen’s production company, Court13, is off the beaten track as far as the typical Hollywood production house is concerned—a fact that only added the hype around the success of Beasts of the Southern Wild. This new project will be no different. “It’s not a hundred million-dollar movie coming in with airplanes and giant everything. It’ll be a small group of people building out of scrap metal and things we find, and the interesting thing is that even though we’re such a small production the reach could be very, very far,” Zeitlin said. “It’s a lot of very young people who want to have great time and want to be a part of the place that they’re filming. It’s a small group of people.” This news is all terribly exciting, but the biggest story to come out of Zeitlen’s visit is that he’s scouring the region looking for a child to star in the film.”
It ends stating that casting for the film will begin in Barbuda in August. Interested parties are asked to contact Kirchner at 464-6044 or email@example.com.
I dug through the S&A archives to see if we’d mentioned anything about Zeitlin’s post-“Beasts of the Southern Wild” plans, and, thankfully, we had. I found a 2012 article in which I referenced an interview the filmmaker gave to the AP, in which he noted that he had already begun work on his follow-up to his critically-acclaimed, albeit polarizing feature film debut, adding that it would likely also be set in New Orleans, where Zeitlin’s Court 13 film production calls home.
Further, Zeitlin said that he planned on using the same production team he used on “Beasts,” AND he hoped to, once again, cast Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis, who both made their acting debuts in “Beast Of The Southern Wild,” in that film’s lead father and daughter roles.
The then untitled project, Zeitlin said, would be about, “a hidden ecosystem where the aging process is out of whack… a place where aging operates like a variable, where people can age rapidly or very slowly.”
Given that description, and the Antiguan Observer’s description of the film Zeitlin is prepping in the Island nation, it’s safe to assume that they are very likely the same project, refined over the last 3 years, and now ready for production.
Obviously, if he’s in Antigua casting for this film, titled “Wendy,” about “a tribe of children who don’t age,” and he plans to shoot the film there, it’s also safe to assume that the film’s cast will be made up primarily of actors of African decent. Why? Well, the ethnic distribution of Antigua and Barbuda looks like this: 91% Black, 4.4% mixed race, 1.7% White, and 2.9% other (primarily East Indian and Asian). Also, Zeitlin’s last film did tell a fantastical tale about a black girl and her black father. So… [fill in the blanks]…
But I’m certainly curious given all that I’ve read and heard about “Wendy,” and I have to wonder if Dwight Henry and Quvenzhané Wallis will appear in the film, since he was apparently courting them for it 3 years ago.