Glory At Sea

Mourners build a boat from treasured possessions, to seek their drowned loved ones. Behn Zeitlin’s precursor to Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Genre: Drama

Length: 25:41

Free To View

5 out of 5 stars

Producer/s : Dan Janvey, et al

Director/s : Benh Zeitlin, 

Writer/s : Benh Zeitlin, 

Actor/s : Chantise Colon, Geremy Jasper


Boats of the Southern Wild

Amidst the wreckage of an unnamed disaster, the Pastor preaches that God killed a city of sinners. It’s no wonder his congregation of survivors find small comfort, and opt to follow mad Jake and search for their lost loved ones. Not search as in the film The Impossible, hoping people survived, but believing that they still live under the sea.

Glory at Sea was made by Court 13, a filmmaking collective, whose energy pervades the work. Sometimes it fizzes like a detached Catherine wheel, sometimes is follows a deeper structure like jazz, as the community makes its boat to music and parade and dancing.

An omniscient drowned girl narrates. “Now there ain’t nobody in the church ’cept the Reverend and the Holy Ghost.” They are putting anything that survived, which means anything lucky, onto a raft made from junk, and venturing onto the sea. They’d take the church too, so the pastor takes up the offer and plants himself and a cross on the boat. He is repeating the church’s appropriation of what it can’t control, because although the church itself still stands, all that it had – its school, its family – are gone.

Then a drunkard burns the church down, as if to confirm the failure of the Trinity in the face of the paganistic ritual being enacted.

Glory at Sea is a hymn to post-Katrina New Orleans, a prayer for hope and an afterlife, a lament for religion, a celebration of community. Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild  reprised the fractured narrative, the child’s eye-view,  imagined  surreal moments, diverse characters struggling together, fireworks, and a sense of place. Here, the landscape is one of fallen houses, flotsam and detritus, and things where they ought not be, like the bed in a tree. And so many images to contemplate the meaning of, like a boy using a typewriter as a hammer.

Their little Titanic sinks, and the pastor seems to give up even praying. And the seekers have no choice but to swim deeper. “I’m always asking my dad how that boat knew to go down right there, right over us,” says the girl. “He laughs and say ‘God did it.’”

But which god?