One of the best underdog stories in movies last year concerned Benh Zeitlin‘s debut feature “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” a tiny-budgeted indie with a bizarre premise and non-actors in all of the major roles. The film dazzled audiences from Park City, Utah to Cannes, ultimately picking up four Academy Award nominations, including a Best Picture nod and a Best Director nomination for Zeitlin. So what’s next? How do you follow such a strong debut? Well, if you’re Zeitlin, you go even weirder.
In a lengthy profile of 20 exciting young filmmakers in The New York Times, Zeitlin is asked about his follow-up to “Beasts of Southern Wild,” and he promises that it’s going to be even wilder than ‘Beasts.’ “The new film is about a young girl who gets kidnapped onto a hidden ecosystem where a tribal war is raging over a form of pollen that breaks the relationship between aging and time,” Zeitlin said. “It follows a friendship-love story-adventure of her and a joyous, reckless, pleasure-mongering young boy as they swirl in and out of youth and as the ecosystem around them spirals toward destruction. We’re working on it all day every day, but as all psychotic adventures go, you know where your destination is but not how long it’s going to take to get there.”
Um… Wow. For a while, it had been rumored that the follow-up would deal with the “out of wack” aging process and have a kind of magical component (just like ‘Beasts’), but this sounds even crazier. It’s admirable that after the accolades came in, he didn’t jump on the first studio project that came his way, although I worry that this could be a maddening follow-up, and not just because the director hedged his bets by saying that it could take a really long time. Hopefully, Zeitlin is able to maintain the delicate mixture of surrealism and heart that made “Beasts of the Southern Wild” such a singularly powerful experience.