Fox Searchlight officially made a pair of acquisitions today at the Sundance Film Festival, picking up both "Beasts of the Southern Wild", a fantastical drama from first time director Benh Zeitlin that's being described as the biggest hit of the Park city fest so far, and "The Surrogate" helmed by Ben Lewin, who began working as a director over 30 years ago but may have just scored his big breakthrough.

The latter film stars John Hawkes ("Martha Marcy May Marlene") as Mark O'Brien, the late poet and journalist who was the subject of the Oscar-winning 1997 documentary "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O'Brien" directed by Jessica Yu. Lewin's film focuses on the determination of O'Brien, who was confined to an iron lung for much of his life after being stricken with polio as a child, to lose his virginity at the age of 38. It also stars William H. Macy and Helen Hunt.

“We're very happy to have found a home at Fox Searchlight for this film,” said Lewin in a statement.  “We have worked hard to evoke the spirit of Mark O'Brien and his writing, and feel that the Searchlight team can help bring his unique and touching story to as wide of an audience as possible.”

"Beasts of the Southern Wild", meanwhile, centers on a six-year-old girl (Quvenzhané Wallis) living in a "forgotten" Louisiana bayou community with her ailing father (Dwight Henry) who goes on a search to find her lost mother after a fierce storm hits and wreaks havoc on her world. The film, which came out of the Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program, utilizes a heavy dose of magical realism in telling its story.

“We were looking for a partner who would unleash our film on the world with the same energy and ferocity with which we made it," said director Zeitlin. "Fox Searchlight came to the table with big hearts and fierce resolve, they're a perfect match for the project."

Searchlight acquired worldwide rights to "The Surrogate" and U.S. rights to "Beasts". Both films are scheduled for release sometime in 2012.

You can read Gregory Ellwood's review of "Beasts of the Southern Wild" here and Kristopher Tapley's impressions of the film here.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! Do either of these films sound like something you'd be interested in seeing?


A former contributor to sites including MTV's The Backlot and Bloody-Disgusting, Chris Eggertsen worked in film development before indulging his love of pop culture writing full time. He specializes in horror, the intersection of social issues and entertainment and Howard Stern. He's on Twitter @HitFixChris.