Long time readers of the blog probably know my friend Lucy Alibar best as the creator of these incredibly easy, incredibly delicious chocolate peanut butter cookies. Now she’s gone and created something slightly more ambitious: a little movie she wrote called “Beasts of the Southern Wild” that’s taking the world by storm. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the Camera d’or at the Cannes Film Festival and earned rave reviews all over the place. I saw the movie two weeks ago and was blown away by its vision of life in a place called “The Bathtub” where a little girl named Hushpuppy and her dad struggle to survive against all odds, still finding room to celebrate life with feasts of crab and other seafood dumped ceremoniously on long tables. Because food plays such a big part in the story, I asked Lucy if she would answer some food-related questions about the movie. She kindly obliged (and even sent along the pictures you see in this post).
(That’s Lucy sticking her fist out of the water.)
Lucy, I loved your movie BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Food plays such a big part in creating the world of the film, can you talk about how food factored in when you were writing the screenplay?
Hushpuppy’s relationship with food changes through the course of the story–at first it’s a strange entity in Hushpuppy’s life that other people provide for her. Her dad, Miss Bathsheba, even the people at the evacuation center. Her dad teaches her how to feed herself, and how to feed the people she loves. In my family and a lot of my friend’s families, passing on how to prepare food for people that you love was important, and I think that’s true of a lot of parents.
The opening sequence involves the hero, Hushpuppy, lifting up birds and listening to their hearts beating; then it transitions to her dad throwing a chicken on to the grill to cook. How are your own attitudes about eating animals reflected in the movie?
That’s a really interesting question–Hushpuppy’s searching for the common denominator of all living beings. Every animal has a heart, every animal has parents, every animal has a bigger animal that wants to eat them. It’s a tough question to answer, because so much of eating animals today is a bigger conversation about industrialization, corporate ownership of food sources, etc. But Hushpuppy and her Dad live close to the land, grow their own food, and eat their own chickens. Hushpuppy’s examining how she’s part of the food chain when she’s eating animals. Like Miss Bathsheba says, “We’re all meat.”
So you named the main character Hushpuppy. Is there anything about an actual hush puppy that speaks to her character or was it just a fun name?
“Beasts of the Southern Wild” is based on a play I wrote called “Juicy and Delicious,” following these two characters as they face the end of the known world. Hushpuppy’s dad talks about how after Hushpuppy was born, he and Hushpuppy’s mom couldn’t think of a name, so they called their baby “Big Fat Baby”. And then Hushpuppy’s mamma suggests the name “Hushpuppy”, because “a hushpuppy is a small, warm, stupid, good little thing.”
I know you’re from the South… what kind of food did you eat growing up? Is there any of that in BEASTS?
The mother as an almost-magic chef carries over. My mom is a really incredible cook, very simple but fresh and healthful and delicious. It always looked like she was doing a magic trick, how she would do fish. She was a big inspiration for the Magic Cook in the Elysian Fields scene.
What was your favorite food experience making the movie?
We all had to learn to crack and eat crabs–Quevenzhane Wallis (the brilliant, soulful, funny and wonderful six year old actress who plays Hushpuppy) and the crew. I remember that afternoon so clearly–it was so messy and fun and, in the end, triumphant.
The hospitality we experienced in Louisiana was like nothing I’ve ever experienced, and I’m from the south. We were invited into peoples homes, to crab boils, we got fed everyplace we went. I gained 12 pounds from all the love and hospitality, but dang was it worth it.
Thanks Lucy… congrats on the movie!
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If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure to go see “Beasts” in theaters as soon as you can. It’s a really unforgettable experience.