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Michelle Obama Honors 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' Raves About Quvenzhane Wallis

Joined by director Benh Zeitlin and stars Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, the first lady called the movie "beautiful, joyful and devastatingly honest."

Michelle Obama Quvenzhane Wallis - H 2013
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Another day, another Oscar-nominated movie being honored in Washington, D.C.

Less than a week after Silver Linings Playbook's Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell met with Vice President Joe Biden and presented a mental-health care bill to the Senate, first lady Michelle Obama spent Wednesday morning lauding Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Joined by director Benh Zeitlin and stars Quvenzhane Wallis and Dwight Henry, whose film centers on a remote and forgotten New Orleans community facing a monster natural disaster, Obama spoke to parents and children about resolve, determination and the importance of art.

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"It's a movie that makes us all think deeply about the people we love in our lives who make us who we are," she said. "It shows us the strength of our communities, no matter what they look like. It shows us that those communities can give us the power to overcome any kind of obstacles. And it also tells a compelling story of poverty and devastation but also of hope and love in the midst of some great challenges."

Touching on each of her guests, Obama noted Zeitlin's limited production budget, calling him "really creative and resourceful"; mentioned how Henry had never acted before the film and praised his willingness to take a risk as an example of the great opportunities of America; and joked with Wallis about the pronunciation of her name, along with heralding her talent.

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"Quvenzhane, as you know, was just 5 years old when she auditioned for the film -- just 5, OK. Imagine," Obama marveled. "Now, she seems like a grown woman sitting up here. And I understand she often acts like one. But she was only 5, so hopefully she will tell you a little bit about how a 5-year-old learns those lines and learns how to take on the role of that character and to bring that character to life, which is why she has been nominated for an Academy Award. It was very profound. Amazing -- and it doesn’t happen often."

In November, the White House hosted a screening of Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, as did the Senate. Ben Affleck's Argo screened for CIA members, while the depiction of torture and the intelligence behind Zero Dark Thirty has divided government. The trips to Washington have become more and more common, as Oscar contenders look for new publicity angles and politicians seek to attach themselves to big-name stars and movies.