9-year-old Oscar-nominated actress serves as Teacher for a Day - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

9-year-old Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhane Wallis serves as 'Teacher for a Day' at DC theatre

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Quvenzhane Wallis Quvenzhane Wallis

She is the darling of the awards season with an Oscar nomination for her starring role in the movie "Beasts of the Southern Wild."

On Monday afternoon, nine-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, her mother, Qulyndreia, and the director of the film, Benh Zeitlin, were in D.C. serving as Teachers for a Day.

They were sharing their filmmaking experience with members of the Paso Nuevo/Next Step theater program at Gala Hispanic Theater in Columbia Heights.

"Beasts of the Southern Wild" is 30-year-old Zeitlin's first feature film.

He says it was a labor of love he wrote, produced and directed with longtime friends.

It's the story of a little girl and her dying father in a tight-knit bayou community. Zeitlin says he was inspired by the people and the towns he saw in Louisiana.

"I really wanted to make a film celebrating hold out and survivors that are struggling to hold on to their land and their culture," says Zeitlin.

The tear-jerking tale has resonated with audiences and garnered many awards, also sealing Wallis as the youngest-ever Oscar nominee. It's an honor she still hasn't quite grasped.

"I just thought it was a film; something we did to have fun," says Wallis. "I never knew that it would go to Sundance, Cannes; never knew that it would end up all right here."

Zeitlin chose Wallis for the part of "Hushpuppy" when she was just five years old. The little girl auditioned on a whim. She had no prior acting experience.

"I can remember a lot of things, and now I remember like an elephant, and that's what my mom tells me. She says I'm a smart cookie," Wallis says.

For the young actors of the Paso Nuevo/Next Step Program, the event was a chance to hear from the experts, and a chance for them to show their skills too.

The program was launched in a partnership with FOX and the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities

Wallis had a few words of advice as teacher for the day.

"Always be strong and always take care of your parents and other kids," she says.

She's a nine-year-old with undeniable star power, sharing the spotlight at center stage where she belongs.

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