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'Beasts of the Southern Wild' gets into the Oscar game in D.C.

February 13, 2013|By Nicole Sperling
  • 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' star Quvenzhane Wallis, left, listens as First Lady Michelle Obama speaks during an interactive student workshop at the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, D.C.
'Beasts of the Southern Wild' star Quvenzhane Wallis, left,… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )

Looks like historical dramas, CIA thrillers and movies centering on mental illness aren't the only ones aiming to curry favor in Washington, D.C. -- now, it seems that a magical realist film also has its fans among the federal government's elite.

This week, "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhané Wallis and director Benh Zeitlin have been making the rounds in the nation's capital in a series of events organized by studio Fox Searchlight and the filmmakers.

The events -- highlighted by a visit to the White House -- were prompted by the film's producers Josh Penn, Michael Gottwald and Dan Janvey. The trio has a relationship with the Center for American Progress, which they worked with as campaign organizers for President Obama's 2008 campaign.

The trio organized a Sunday night screening at the Center for American Progress. They then took the movie to the White House, which had an interest in showing the film as part of events centered on Black History Month.

(The Obamas had been fans of the movie since they first viewed it prior to the film's general release in June.)

Academy Award nominee Wallis, 9, attended the White House screening and Q&A session Wednesday hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Zeitlin and Louisiana baker Dwight Henry, who plays Wallis' father in the film, were on hand too. Eighty middle- and high-school students from the District of Columbia and New Orleans, the film's locale, participated in the gathering.

In remarks following the movie, Obama said, "There are so many important lessons to learn in that little 93 minutes," according to a transcript of the event on the White House's website.

“It doesn't always happen in a movie, quite frankly, but this one did it, and that's why I love this movie so much and why our team wanted to bring it here to the White House and share it with all of you," she told the students.

The 80 children attending the White House event received "Beasts" DVDs and lunch boxes featuring auroch cookies from the White House pastry chef.

The White House event followed a Monday afternoon gathering for the "Teacher for a Day" initiative established by the Paseo Nuevo Next Step Theater Program. That event featured an hourlong Q&A session with Wallis, her mother Qulyndreia, a teacher, and was moderated by Rachel Goslins, the executive director of the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.


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