Whenever film nominations are released for the various awards ceremonies that erupt during the January of every year, there is undoubtedly a political element behind every choice. Of the Oscar nominations that were released today, Silver Linings Playbook is the closest of any of the films to a 'comedy', and that revolves itself around mental illness- not so comic. It seems, unequivocally, that serious films are the best films, according to the various institutions that hand out prizes. It came as a great surprise, therefore, when Kathryn Bigelow's directing for the enormously successful (fiscally and critically), very, very serious film Zero Dark Thirty, was snubbed for a nomination for Best Director. The other surprise in that group was a nomination for Benh Zeitlin.
There has already been much speculation surrounding her absence in the list, but the general consensus is that the controversy surrounding the film, regarding the use of torture. The Huffington Post blogger Jan Lisa Huttner cites gender as a problem, noting that with Bigelow's elision from the lineup, "for the 80th time in 84 years, all the Best Director nominees in 2013 are male." Another idea is that Bigelow has already won an Oscar for best director, and its time to give other, lesser known directors a chance at the gong. And that's probably the most likely, because Benh Zeitlin, the second biggest surprise of the list, is someone that almost no one has heard of.
So, who is Benh Zeitlin and why has he been nominated? To begin with, he's only thirty years old. Secondly, the movie for which he's nominated, Beasts of the Southern Wild, is the first feature-length film he's ever made. His movie stars a five year old actress, for whom Beasts is also her debut, in a kind of magical-realist approach to the story of a community hit by Hurricane Katrina. Her name is Quvenzhané Wallis, she is also nominated for Best Actress, and probably the youngest person ever to be nominated in this category.
Zeitlin was just as surprised and delighted as us about the nomination, and we think he may not quite have got his head around it yet because what he's most excited about is the chance to meet his directorial heroes. "There's a lot of exclamation points on my phone right now," he told Entertainment Weekly. "I don't think I knew three filmmakers before I finished this film, and suddenly I'm getting to meet heroes of mine, directors who are nominated in my category who taught me how to make films when I was a kid watching VHS films. They've seen my movie!"
Watch The Beats Of The Southern Wild Trailer: