Standard Culture interviews Benh Zeitlin

What is it about Louisiana that appeals to you so strongly? I think there’s a difference in what people value here. It’s not a place that’s ambitious. You know people here for six years and still have no idea what their job is. Your personal value isn’t based on that. People here are judged on their joy. It’s like, How much joy do you have? There’s a real freedom and fearlessness and a kind of relief from superficial success. There’s an enlightened notion that all that stuff just isn’t that important, because every commodity has been taken away from people so many times. There’s an appreciation for things that are actually important. It may appear downtrodden—it’s certainly not a rich town and doesn’t have that kind of first-world technology and progress feel when you’re here—but I don’t think people would consider themselves downtrodden. I think people consider themselves a little bit freer.

Do you drink? There was a point in the movie when we were wondering if things would be different if they just drank a tiny bit less.

I do, yes. Proudly. It’s a party culture. You could look at it as a movie about a bunch of alcoholics living in the woods, sure, but that would be inaccurate. It’s like, if the culture were more ambitious and didn’t appreciate partying would it be more successful by the terms of New York City? Yes. But those aren’t the terms down here. The terms are: How much are you enjoying your life? How much are you celebrating your culture and your friends and your people? People celebrate by dancing and drinking and that’s the culture. People can look down on that but that’s bringing a different cultural lens.

The Standard Hotel's Standard Culture interviewed Benh Zeitlin about New York, the future, and Louisiana party culture. Read it all here.