Benh Zeitlin

Benjamin Harold "Benh" Zeitlin (born October 14, 1982)[2] is an American filmmaker, composer, and animator best known for directing the 2012 film Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Benh Zeitlin
Zeitlin at the Deauville American Film Festival, September 2012
Benjamin Harold Zeitlin[1]

(1982-10-14) October 14, 1982
OccupationFilmmaker, composer, animator
Notable work
Beasts of the Southern Wild


Zeitlin was born in Manhattan and raised in Sunnyside, Queens, and in suburban Hastings-on-Hudson, NY.[3] He is a graduate of Hastings High School[4] and Wesleyan University.[5] He was born to writers and folklorists Mary Amanda Dargan and Steven Joel Zeitlin, who founded the NYC non-profit cultural organization City Lore.[1][6][7] His father, who is Jewish, spent most of his childhood in Brazil, and his mother comes from a rural, Protestant background in Darlington, South Carolina.[8][9][10]


In 2004, Zeitlin co-founded the Court 13 independent collection of filmmakers, named after a neglected Wesleyan University squash court that he and his friends had once commandeered as a filming location.[11] Zeitlin and his younger sister Eliza moved to New Orleans while he was making his first short film, Glory at Sea, in 2008.

In 2012, Zeitlin's first feature, Beasts of the Southern Wild, adapted from a play entitled Juicy and Delicious by Lucy Alibar, won the Caméra d'Or award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic at the Sundance Film Festival,[12] and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Deauville American Film Festival. The film went on to earn the Los Angeles Film Festival's Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature and the Seattle International Film Festival's Golden Space Needle Award for Best Director.[13] Zeitlin was also given a Humanitarian Award for his work on the film at the Satellite Awards 2012.[14] Notably, Zeitlin both directed Beasts of the Southern Wild and co-composed the score.[15]

For his directorial work and screenplay in Beasts of the Southern Wild, Zeitlin collected several additional awards and nominations.[16][17][18] At the Gotham Independent Film Awards in 2012, he won the Breakthrough Director Award. At the same awards ceremony, Zeitlin received the inaugural Bingham Ray Award, which honors the independent filmmaker who died in 2012.[19] Zeitlin also won a Humanitas Prize (as co-writer/director; shared with Alibar as co-writer), amongst other awards.[20][21] He has also received nominations for two Academy Awards at the 85th Academy Awards: Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay (Lucy Alibar, Benh Zeitlin), and the film itself was nominated for Best Picture.

In 2019, it was revealed that Zeitlin was directing his next feature Wendy in Montserrat, an island south of Antigua. Inspired by Peter Pan, Zeitlin described the film as 'a friendship-love story-adventure of her and a joyous, reckless, pleasure-mongering young boy as they swirl in and out of youth and as the ecosystem around them spirals toward destruction.'.[22]


Zeitlin was the 2012 recipient of Smithsonian magazine's American Ingenuity Award in the Visual Arts category.

See also


  1. McCullough-Smith families - Marie McCullough Derbes - Google Books
  2. official catalogue of the Festival de Cannes 2012, p.73
  3. Review of Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" : The New Yorker
  5. Beasts of the Southern Wild | 2012 Seattle International Film Festival | Benh Zeitlin | USA < Films Archived May 29, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2012-07-14.
  6. Family reunions offer connection in world of high mobility, isolation. Bangor Daily News (1991-08-30).
  7. Department of Folklore | Completed MA Theses Archived January 20, 2012, at the Wayback Machine. (2012-03-05). Retrieved on 2012-07-14.
  8. Mann, Iris. (2012-06-13) Ravages, rape, Rodriguez and real estate | Summer Sneaks. Jewish Journal. Retrieved on 2012-07-14.
  9. Benh Zeitlin: Conquering his 'Beasts' | Jewish Journal
  10. COLUMN: Fantastic filmmaker has some Pee Dee ties. (2012-03-18). Retrieved on 2012-07-14
  11. Kenneth Rainin Foundation » BENH ZEITLIN Archived August 19, 2011, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved on 2012-07-14.
  12. 2012 Sundance Film Festival Announces Awards | Sundance Institute. (2012-01-28). Retrieved on 2012-07-14.
  13. "Awards for Beasts of the Southern Wild". Retrieved August 4, 2012.
  14. 'Silver Linings Playbook' Wins Five Satellite Awards, Including Best Picture, Kilday, Gregg The Hollywood Reporter December 16, 2012.
  15. Buchanan, Kyle (July 5, 2012). "Inside the Beasts of the Southern Wild Score". Vulture. Retrieved January 29, 2015.
  16. Benh Zeitlin Awards and Nominations, Internet Movie Database. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  17. Best Director Archived 2013-11-03 at the Wayback Machine, Spirit Awards. By staff. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  18. Best Feature, Spirit Awards. By staff. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  19. Gotham Awards Winners, The Hollywood Reporter. Pages 1 &2. By staff. Retrieved December 12, 2012.
  20. Feature Film Beasts Archived January 7, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, Sundance Institute. Feature Film Program. By staff. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
  21. Benh Zeitlin awards, Internet Movie Database. Retrieved January 1, 2013.
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