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While Benh Zeitlin’s fantasy Beasts of the Southern Wild may not have been the greatest directorial debut ever, it certainly put the director on the map in a big flooding way. Its imaginative floating narrative makes it impossible to predict what kind of film Zeitlin will be taking on next. Luckily, The New York Times caught up with him for their “20 Directors to Watch” feature, and from what he told them, he’s apparently thinking outside the box, the room and the entire building for his sophomore effort.
After saying there is a development deal for his new film, he says it’s “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.” Of course it is! Had I taken the time to guess, certainly I would have landed on “Dune meets The Fountain” before too long. But it’s not just madness of course.
“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 towards destruction,” he continued, possibly rubbing his hands together and cackling madly while Tesla coils popped up out of the floor. “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.”
Those are some wise words right there. It’s as if he and Wes Anderson come from different areas of the whimsical spectrum. (Maybe I’ll just forever think of Moonrise Kingdom when “young love” comes up.) I don’t know what to think about when “hidden ecosystems” come up, but I really dig the descriptiveness and assumed enthusiasm Zeitlin exudes when describing it. I’m definitely looking forward to it in any case, thankful that I didn’t have to read that he signed on for a Jungle Book remake or some other studio drivel. I only ask that he use Richard Kelly’s Southland Tales, a film that I admittedly enjoyed, as a barometer in how far south a second film can take someone.
It’ll be hard to match the word of mouth wave that followed his first film’s Sundance debut, gaining ground across the globe, eventually getting nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture. I don’t think anyone really saw that coming, even if they said they did. Here’s hoping magic pollen-covered lightning strikes twice for Zeitlin. Hop back into The Bathtub with the Beasts trailer below.