Louisiana-shot award winner premieres in N.O.

Associated Press
Actress Quvenzhané Wallis and actor Dwight Henry arrive at the movie premiere of "Beasts Of The Southern Wild" at the Joy Theater in New Orleans, Monday, June 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

View gallery

Actress Quvenzhané Wallis and actor Dwight Henry arrive at the movie premiere of "Beasts Of The Southern …

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A Louisiana-shot film that took top honors at this year's Sundance Film Festival returned to the state where it was made for a Hollywood-style, red-carpet premiere Monday night before opening in select theaters nationwide this summer.

The makers and stars of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" — all newcomers to the big screen — walked a red carpet at the Joy Theater on streetcar-lined Canal Street, hailing the New Orleans premiere as a long-awaited homecoming after media screenings across the country and at the Cannes Film Festival in France in May.

"This is what we dreamed about the whole time we were filming, bringing a finished film back to Louisiana," said the film's director and co-writer, Benh Zeitlin, a native New Yorker and one of only a handful affiliated with the film not from the Bayou State. "Coming back and seeing all this in New Orleans, now it feels real."

Zeitlin and company have been on a whirlwind tour promoting "Beasts," which stars Louisiana natives and uses the state's marshes and bayous to tell the mythical tale of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy struggling to survive in the southern Delta with her ailing father as a storm approaches. The motherless young girl's world consists of a small but tightly-knit shantytown community on the bayou with wild animals, both real and imagined.

"Beasts" won the grand jury prize in the U.S. dramatic competition at Sundance as well as its cinematography award. At Cannes, where many U.S. films were shut out, Louisiana's indie darling won the Camera d'Or for best first film by director Zeitlin.

After a months-long search for the young girl who would ultimately play Hushpuppy, Zeitlin and producers found Quvenzhane (Kuh-VAHN-zuh-nay) Wallis of Houma, La., who was 6 at the time the movie was filmed in 2010. Now 8, she walked the red carpet Monday evening in a bright blue dress with rosettes and a satin sash tied at the back. She wore glittery silver slippers, diamond earrings and a big smile as she talked to reporters and posed for pictures with the other stars.

Her hair straightened and bangs pulled in a tight braid above her forehead, Quvenzhane bore little resemblance to the pants-wearing bushy-haired wild child she portrayed in "Beasts."

Dwight Henry, a New Orleans bakery owner hand-picked for the role of Hushpuppy's father, Wink, wore a black tuxedo with a bright red vest. Like his pint-sized co-star, he was all smiles as he shook hands with colleagues, posed for pictures and waved at onlookers — some who honked their horns from the street.

"We've been all over the country, but this is what it's all about, bringing it back home," Henry said. "This is the moment I've been wanting to share with my family."

The film's success has been a boon for Louisiana, which sees more film activity than just about any other state outside the entertainment hubs of California and New York. But few films that hail from Louisiana have garnered as much acclaim recently.

"We are all filled with an immense amount of pride," said Michael Gottwald, one of the film's producers.

The Fox Searchlight film opens in select theaters nationwide this summer, starting with showings in Los Angeles and New York on Wednesday and then New Orleans-area theaters on July 4.

View Comments (6)

Recommended for You

  • Police officer shot after responding to wrong home

    ATLANTA (AP) — A police officer was shot and critically wounded Monday when he responded to a call of a suspicious person and showed up at the wrong house, authorities said.

    Associated Press
  • Man sentenced to life with no parole walks free in Missouri

    JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A man sentenced to life in prison without parole on a marijuana-related charge walked out of a Missouri prison a free man on Tuesday, after spending two decades behind bars.

    Associated Press
  • Woman Becoming Nun Needs Friend's Interest, Not Concern

    DEAR ABBY: I was best friends with "Joanne" after we met in middle school. She comes from a conservative Christian family and has three successful siblings. This has made her quirky, media-driven pursuits and city life a disappointment to her family. When we were teens and she learned that I was a…

    Dear Abby
  • View

    Kentucky county clerk refuses to issue same-sex marriage licenses (26 photos)

    Gay couples in a Kentucky county are expected at the courthouse door Tuesday morning after the Supreme Court ruled against a defiant clerk who has refused to hand out marriage licenses to same-sex couples. The Supreme Court ruled against the county clerk who refused to issue gay marriage licenses,…

    Yahoo News
  • Boko Haram killers on horseback massacre nearly 80 in NE Nigeria

    Suspected Boko Haram gunmen on horseback shot dead nearly 80 people in attacks on three villages in Nigeria's restive northeast at the weekend, a vigilante and residents told AFP on Monday. Babakura Kolo, a vigilante fighting Boko Haram, said 68 people were killed in the attack on Baanu village in…

  • All eyes on Manchester United as deadline day dawns

    Manchester United were the centre of attention as the Premier League's transfer deadline day dawned on Tuesday, with moves involving David de Gea and Anthony Martial awaiting completion. Goalkeeper De Gea had appeared on the brink of a move to Real Madrid worth between 30 million ($33.8 million)…

  • Big guns in east Ukraine fall silent, two more die from wounds in Kiev protests

    Sporadic shelling and shooting, which each side has blamed on the other, had ensured a steadily mounting death toll despite the ceasefire called as part of a peace plan worked out in Minsk, Belarus, in February. More than 6,500 people have been killed since a separatist rebellion erupted there in…

  • Sheriff: Suspect kills mother, stepfather, grandmother

    Outfitted in camouflage and armed with a high-powered rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition, Robert Seth Denton fatally shot his mother, stepfather and grandmother while six children witnessed the carnage in the family's double-wide mobile home in eastern Tennessee, a sheriff said Monday.

    Associated Press
  • Investigators: Arizona woman acknowledges drowning twin sons

    PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona woman told investigators that she drowned her 2-year-old twin sons and tried to kill her 3-year-old stepbrother in the same way because she didn't want them to live with the difficulties she faces.

    Associated Press
  • View

    The back alleys of one of America’s most dangerous cities (31 photos)

    High-tech policing and a renewed focus on community-officer partnerships are helping to bring calm to Camden, N.J., but it hasn’t been a cure-all. The impoverished town of 77,000 is still the most violent and crime-plagued city in the Garden State. A local policeman recently took Yahoo News…

    Yahoo News
  • Daughter Deep In Debt Needs Counseling, Not More Money

    DEAR ABBY: Three years ago I gave my adult daughter, married with a child, more than $16,000 to help pay off her debts because she couldn't pay her bills. She and her husband maintain separate accounts, which I find odd. He pays certain expenses; she pays others. Now I find she's deep in debt again…

    Dear Abby
  • Obama slams 'completely unacceptable' cop killing

    President Barack Obama vowed Monday to push for police officer safety after a Texas sheriff's deputy was gunned down from behind and shot multiple times at close range. Darren Goforth, 47, was killed late Friday in the Houston area, and local officials have blamed ramped-up rhetoric against police…

  • This versatile 15-in-1 Travel Jacket is Kickstarter’s most funded piece of clothing at $7.2M

    Remember the MacGyver Travel Jacket that has 15 compartments that each have their own designated functions? It turns out that so many people loved the idea of having such a “smart” jacket that the project became the most funded piece of clothing in Kickstarter history, topping $7.2 million in…

    BGR News
  • Women are not getting treated for menopausal symptoms

    By Roxanne Nelson (Reuters Health) - Many women with severe menopausal symptoms are not being treated for them even though safe, effective remedies are available, a study from Australia suggests. The findings may be applicable to other countries, too, according to senior author Dr. Susan R. Davis…

  • Nadal survives Coric scare at US Open

    Two-time champion Rafael Nadal survived a scare at the hands of Croatian teenager Borna Coric to reach the US Open second round. Nadal, who won his second New York title on his last appearance in 2013 before injury forced him to sit out 2014, prevailed 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 against his 18-year-old…

  • Sword-wielding Patel crusader threatens Modi's 'model' in India

    By Rupam Jain Nair AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) - A sword-wielding 22-year-old activist has emerged overnight as the most pressing political threat to Narendra Modi, accusing the Indian prime minister of breaking a promise to provide jobs that helped him win last year's general election. Hardik…

  • Missouri man faces execution for raping, killing 15-year-old

    ST. LOUIS (AP) — An inmate scheduled to be executed Tuesday for killing a 15-year-old Missouri girl has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt his punishment, saying the death penalty is unconstitutional.

    Associated Press
  • CERN: Test results show more detail about 'God particle'

    GENEVA (AP) — After three years of scrutinizing the elusive Higgs boson closely, scientists say they've determined that the "God particle" behaves just as predicted.

    Associated Press