"Beasts of the Southern Wild" as SF

Mary and I recently saw a great science fiction movie: Beasts of the Southern Wild. It was about a bunch of settlers in an alien world called the Bathtub. They create functional devices out of the remains of old technology and squeeze out a living however they can: they have learned to live in harmony with the world they have settled in, while others still try to maintain the no-longer-meaningful structures of the world they came from. They have a vivid and entertaining popular culture. As such stories often are, it is told from the point of view of a child, Hushpuppy, who has to deal with her ill, somewhat deranged father, a missing mother, and an oncoming disaster. She talks to the native fauna, a power not possessed by others. When the disaster strikes, she has a variety of adventures, and experiences loss.

OK, so it's not actually a science fiction movie. There are, however, many books set on alien worlds that don't make them as simultaneously strange and vivid as this movie does.

That I liked it as much as I did is testament to the humane skill of the writer/director Ben Zeitlin, and his fellow writer Lucy Alibar (the movie is actually based on a play Alibar wrote). I tend to dislike movies about "free spirited" outsiders who are misunderstood and abused by the existing power structure. But this one manages to evade any overt oppressed/oppressor agenda. The inhabitants of the Bathtub are not particularly functional, though they get by. And the power structure is desperately trying to keep them from dying, both collectively, when their community floods, and individually, since Hushpuppy's father is ill, and refusing to be treated. It's just that they come from a completely different world, and there is almost no communication between them.

Hushpuppy (who has a wonderful voice) compares the clean, well-lit refugee shelter they end up in as "a fish tank without water", which coveres both its smooth surfaces and the fact that she and her people are flopping around in it, unable to breathe.

And the movie does have big, mysteriously boar-like horned "aurochs" from the "Iced Age" that Hushpuppy learned about from her cool local schoolteacher. Aurochs, extinct giant cattle that appear in cave paintings,  have a weird role in European hunting psychology (Hermann Goering wanted to backbreed them from domestic cattle with "primitive" features and stock a hunting preserve carved out of the Bialowieza Forest with them), but those don't seem to have much with the semi-porcine inhabitants of Hushpuppy's imagination.

Anyway, one of the best SF movies I've seen in a long time. Well worth your while.