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Sundance 2012: 5 Bidders Vying for Festival Breakout 'Beasts of the Southern Wild'

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The biggest breakout surprise of the first weekend of Sundance is prompting a dealmaking frenzy among some of the top distributors of independent films.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, a dark drama from first-time director Benh Zeitlin that THR critic Todd McCarthy called "one of the most striking films ever to debut at the Sundance Film Festival," has five distributors vying for the pic: Fox Searchlight, the Weinstein Co., Sony Pictures Classics, Oscilloscope Films and IFC Films. 

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Despite a report that appeared online Sunday saying Searchlight was wrapping up a deal, sources close to the dealmaking say that the film remains very much in play. Searchlight could end up with the movie, but so could any of the remaining suitors (Focus and River Road had expressed early interest). The distributors have scheduled meetings on Monday with the filmmakers' reps, and negotiations will begin in earnest following those meetings. Oscilloscope execs are screening the film in New York tonight.

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Made with non-professional actors, Beasts centers on Hushpuppy, a six-year-old girl who lives with her tough-love father at the edge of the water in southernmost Louisiana as mildly apocalyptic events cause the seas to rise, her father to become ill and giant, prehistoric creatures to thaw from the ice caps.

The Beasts filmmakers are repped by WME Global.

Email: Jay.Fernandez@THR.com, Daniel.Miller@THR.com