by Ariana Pekary, producer
Watching young Josh “J” Cody survive Australia’s underworld is a bit like watching a young gazelle being hunted in the wild. You hope the innocent spirit in him survives. Animal Kingdom is an intense film to watch, crafted handily by first time filmmaker David Michod. Until the end, you don’t really know who J should fear more: the cops or his own family. His uncle “Pope,” portrayed by actor Ben Mendelsohn, is surgical in his violence, as is his overly affectionate grandmother “Smurf.” If you can ignore the hardcore drug use, the plot is almost Shakespearean in demonstrating how human nature makes us do destructive and counter-progressive acts. Animal Kingdom won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.