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“I came here to party!” 

Sundance2012Those were the first words from six year-old Quvenzhané Walli, who received a standing ovation after Friday’s screening of “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” director Benh Zeitlin’s apocalyptic post-Katrina drama.

With many cast and crew members also in attendance Friday, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” tells the story of Hushpuppy, an intrepid six-year-old girl who lives with her father, Wink, in the impoverished (and flooded) Terrebone Parish bayou of Southern Louisiana. 

“We cast Quvenzhané after receiving 3,500 submissions,” Zeitlin said Friday, “but it wasn’t really a competition.”

Walli, who is from Houma, Louisiana, one of the many communities flooded during Katrina, said she met with Zeitlin and producer Michael Raisler at a library for her first audition.

“They looked really weird!” Walli said.

Zeitlin first premiered his short film “Beasts of the Southern Wild” at Sundance in 2009 and was also a participant in the fest’s Directors Lab.

The story, which is set in the fictious town of “Bathtub” Louisiana, was a melting pot of all things Louisiana, the director said Friday.

“Today I’m here with my blood family, my Beast family and my Sundance family,” Zeitlin beamed.

Dwight Henry, who stars as Hushpuppy’s father in the pic, also a Louisiana native, said that producers hired acting coaches to teach him the craft in between his shifts at a local bakery.

“It was home cookin’ all the way, y’all!” 


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