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Zeitlin ’04 Takes Top Honors at Sundance Festival

“When I was in college, someone at some point told me, ‘If you’re gonna make movies, don’t shoot on the water, don’t shoot with children, and don’t shoot with animals.’ And our movie is really about children and animals on boats.”

This isn’t a film series showing post, but by goodness, in a year or so it could be. The Wesleyan Mafia left its mark on the film world again this past weekend in the form of Beasts of the Southern Wild, a SFFS/KRF grant-winning movie by up-and-coming filmmaker and Wesleyan Film Studies alumnus Benh Zeitlin ’04. The film, described as “a dreamy exploration of survival on the flooded Mississippi Delta,” not only took the grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance this weekend (Zeitlin accepted the award while holding up the film’s star, eight-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis). It also signed with Fox Searchlight for $2 million. GO, WESLEYAN MAFIA, GO, eh? (Speaking of which, the film’s three producers includes Wes alum Michael Gottwald ’06, who was assistant director for Zeitlin’s thesis film, Egg, and completed his own feature  Frame of Reference in 2006.)

I haven’t seen the film, of course (I certainly hope to soon, preferably in the mighty Goldsmith itself), but from what I’ve read, it’s a rather surreal exploration of a girl named Hushpuppy living with her father “at the edge of the world”—the impoverished, flooded Louisiana delta.