Our host, Stefanie Alleyne, comes together with today’s panelists, Kyla Upshaw, a musician and fitness trainer; and Micheline Hess, an illustrator and graphic designer; to discuss the award winning independent film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” at the ambrosial Brazilian bakery and restaurant, “Bee’s Desserts,” located in Greenwich Village in New York City.
A winner this year at both Sundance Film Festival (Grand Jury Prize and Cinematography Award) and Cannes Film Festival (Best First Feature), “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is melting hearts and receiving critical praise from around the globe. Co-written by Lucy Alibar, utilizing elements from her play, “Juicy and Delicious” and storyline ideas from Benh Zeitlin, who is also the film’s director, “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” is being touted as this year’s indie world poster child.
This is the enchanting story of Hushpuppy, our 6-year-old fearless heroine, her father and their will to endure and survive in their detached world. They live in a place called “The Bathtub,” a mystical, magical and very broken down territory in the backwood swampy marshlands of the Louisiana bayou. Through her eyes and her journey, we observe a myriad of local characters and experiences (worldly and otherwise) within their tight-knit community, while, more importantly, coming to appreciate the deep love and bond that unites this father and his young daughter.
Hushpuppy is played here by an incredible young star-in-the-making, Quvenzhane Wallis. She plays this character with so much heart and soul, her performance will leave you breathless. Like most of the cast in this production, this is her feature film debut. And what a debut it is. This little lady is a born natural and carries this film with such ease and grace. Her future is shining extremely bright, my friends. Her father is played by Dwight Henry, a Hurricane Katrina survivor who refused to leave. He owns a local bakery in New Orleans. and is currently opening a second one. His performance is truly sincere and heartfelt. In fact, all of the casting in this production is tour de force. Many are locals to the region which gives this film an authentic and credible voice that would have been impossible with high voltage Hollywood talent.
Impressive on so many levels, “Beasts of the Southern Wild, is visually striking and extremely eloquent and moving. Ethereal and eco-friendly, this is a modern day fairytale of the fantastic kind that should be seen by all. It will leave you spellbound and inspired to raise your own level of awareness about the planet we call Earth.
More About our Fabulous Panel
Micheline Hess lives in New York City and spends her days doing web design and developing graphic novels, short stories and interactive apps for kids. Micheline has always been fascinated by the visual narrative in books and film and is constantly endeavoring to weave her own quirky sense of humorous story telling into both her personal and sometimes professional work. Her self taught skills in interactive design were honed at Parsons School of Design after getting her Bachelors Degree at Sarah Lawrence College in Fine Arts.
She is most adept at creating characters, worlds and stories that provide a safe and fun way to nurture and encourage young imaginations. She is especially fond of trying to reach young girls and through colorful flights of fun and fancy, encourage in them a stronger sense and love of self, curiosity and a hunger to embrace all things new and different.
These days you can usually find her ogling dinosaur skeletons in a museum, at home learning new software, reading or resisting the urge to give her cat Figment, more treats as a result of its attempts at controlling her mind.
Kyla Upshaw, who is of African and Native-American descent, performed her first church solo at the young age of three. She was so nervous that her older sister had to help her complete the song, but it was a beginning of her love for music and performing. During her teen years, she traveled across the country as a singer and dancer.
In college, where she majored in communications, Kyla won the Ms. Black International title. She soon joined the former Motown R&B group, Shades. She has written songs for artists such as Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey and performed in the musical, “Musicians on Call Foundation,” a non-profit organization that brings well-known singers to the bedside of patients in healthcare centers.
For the past five years, she has mentored foster girls in New York City creating two after-school programs that combine music and academics. She has raised money for an international running program for children as well as for Arnold Schwartzenegger’s After-School All-Stars, a national provider of after-school programs. She has also produced and directed several PSA’s for rappers promoting literacy.
She currently hosts and produces several shows on MNN (Manhattan Neighborhood Network): Kyla Live and the fitness show Work It! With her down-to-earth style, neo soul consciousness and acoustic guitar playing, Kyla has been compared to Sheryl Crow and India Arie. Kyla was given the opportunity to perform at the Women’s Day of Peace event at the United Nations. She’s hopes to complete her first solo album this year and plans to one day become a diplomat for peace - thus the title of her first single.
Find out more about Bee’s Desserts.
Discover more about the wonderful film, “Beasts of the Southern Wild.”