By: Janice Malone
If being the winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the Camera d’Or at the 2012 Cannes International Film Festival wasn’t enough, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD is now nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actress for nine-year-old Quvenzhané “Nazie” Wallis, the youngest Best Actress nominee ever. The indie film exists entirely in its own universe: mythological, anthropological, folkloric and apocalyptic. This film is loaded with “firsts.” First-time feature director Benh Zeitlin features a cast of non-actors—reflecting the film’s grassroots production—to fiercely portray the bond between father (actor Dwight Henry) and daughter “Hushpuppy,” in a world where only the strong survive. Both Dwight and little Nazie are first time actors.
Nashvillian Matthew Parker served as the co-producer for Beasts of the Southern Wild. Last summer when the film made it’s Nashville premiere at the historic Belcourt Theatre, the Oscar buzz was already starting to heat up—especially for little Nazie. “It’s just great and crazy and fun to this early Oscar buzz. Everywhere the film is shown the audiences are really bonding with Nazie,” shared Parker a few hours before the Belcourt premiere event, of which he and Dwight Henry attended for an audience Q & A after the film. Originally a two-day event, an extra night was added because of the sold out crowds. “I think, knock on wood, that it (Oscar nomination) can really happen.” Little did Matthew know how prophetic his words actually were!
Matthew Parker was born and raised in Nashville where his love of film began with his weekly Sunday trip to the movies with his father. “I grew up in Nashville in an area that’s not too far from the Belcourt Theatre. I remember often going to there as a kid. Whenever I’m in Nashville during the holidays, I still love seeing movies there,” recalls Matthew, who now lives in New York City. In addition to his work as film producer, Parker partnered with fellow Nashvillian and artist Vadis Turner to co-author a charitable book entitled “Nashville Counts!,” a children’s counting and art book that benefits Hands On Nashville and their flood relief efforts.
Parker’s long list of production credits includes co-producer of BACHELORETTE, which was an official selection at the Sundance 2012 Film Festival. During the filming of Beasts of the Southern Wild the cast and crew spent nearly four months of filming in the Houma, La. Area. The film crew became a community within a community. A really cool makeshift kitchen was set up in a trailer, where a crew of four different cooks rotated with doing the cooking. Two of the cooks were related to a couple of the cast members and the other two ladies were women who lived in the area. Even though all of the food was quite tasty, Matthew recalls the local ladies seemed to have an edge. “We could definitely tell the difference in the food when the two Louisiana ladies did the cooking. The food was just amazingly good old fashion southern cooking!”