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Sundance: Fox Searchlight Angles Toward ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ and ‘Surrogate’

Written by on January 23, 2012 

A slate of positive reviews (including our own) have pushed Beasts of the Southern Wild to the top of the “buzz charts” at Sundance, so you know how it goes: Variety reports that Fox Searchlight is close to acquiring Benh Zeitlin‘s debut film, even though Focus Features, Sony Pictures Classics, and The Weinstein Company are all listed as interested parties. While you might think they’d be a threat to the indie titan, the time since that story was published has seen Searchlight emerge even further as a favorite to snatch up the picture.

Unlike a lot of other Sundance entries, Zeitlin‘s film sounds like the kind that can’t be summed up with a basic description; Variety gives it a try, anyway, describing as the tale of “a 6-year-old girl (Quvenzhane Wallis) who lives in a southern Delta community at the edge of the world.” But early word indicates that it goes to many stranger, far more interesting places — the kind of places that have me hoping Fox Searchlight (or anyone, really) puts it out there soon.

Variety (and Jeff Sneider himself) also tell us that Fox Searchlight got their hands on The Surrogate. This drama — starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt, and William H. Macy — has been getting positive notices since its first screening this afternoon; hence, the buyer attention and presence in this article. Ben Lewin‘s film — his first in 18 years — follows “Mark O’Brien (Hawkes), a 36-year-old poet and journalist with an iron lung, [who] decides he no longer wishes to be a virgin”; after some research and guidance, O’Brien “contacts a professional sex surrogate (Hunt) to take him on a journey to manhood.”

I can’t speak for its commercial appeal, having not seen the film, but $6 million seems awfully high for a drama of this seemingly, well, uncommercial nature. Searchlight did, however, step up their indie game in 2011 by putting out darker, more human-based dramas such as Martha Marcy May Marlene (which also featured Hawkes) and Shame; this probably isn’t as dour as either, but at least it isn’t about a MPDG meeting a cute boy in Los Angeles. In other words: I’m rooting for the thing to do some good business while it can.

Are you looking forward to either film? Is Fox Searchlight the right studio to put them out?

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