Variety, the insider journal of the film industry, has named director Benh Zeitlin one of ten directors to watch, while the film industry website indywire reports that film companies have started a bidding war over his new film, Beasts Of The Southern Wild, which reportedly received a standing ovation after its Sundance premiere. The Hollywood Reporter has already called it "one of the most striking films ever to debut at the Sundance Film Festival." According to Indywire:
After its immensely successful premier at the ongoing Sundance Film Festival - a debut that was met with a standing ovation and lots of applause at its end, for both the film and the director - several distribution companies have been circling the film with great interest.Zeitlin's previous work includes the film Glory At Sea, which received the best short film award at the 2008 PATOIS Film Festival and the New Orleans Film Festival.While Glory At Sea movingly - and elliptically - dealt with post-Katrina themes, Zeitlin's new film was shot on Louisiana's southern coast in the aftermath of the BP Drilling Disaster and reportedly explores life in the coastal communities, where the land is disappearing out from under their feet.
It was just announced that Fox Searchlight is emerging to be the company with the most attractive proposal, whatever that is, and is in "active talks" to acquire Benh Zeitlin's feature film debut, the beautiful, whimsical and tragic Beasts of the Southern Wild. Variety reports that no deal is yet in place, but multiple sources privy to the negotiations say that Fox Searchlight is fully committed to "bagging" the film by any means necessary, and will close on a deal soon.
Other companies that were in the mix include Sony Pictures Classics, Focus Features, and The Weinstein Company. So let's see how this all shakes out; I suppose an announcement will come sooner than later; unless talks with Fox Searchlight fall apart for whatever reason.
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy, one of the most influential film critics in the US, calls the film "Everything American independent cinema aspires to be but so seldom is." Below are more excerpts from the review:
One of the most striking films ever to debut at the Sundance Film Festival, Beasts of the Southern Wild is a poetic evocation of an endangered way of life and a surging paean to human resilience and self-reliance. Shot along the southernmost fringes of Louisiana, cast with nonactors and absolutely teeming with creativity in every aspect of its being, Benh Zeitlin’s directorial debut could serve as a poster child for everything American independent cinema aspires to be but so seldom is. A handcrafted look at the struggles of some of the poorest people in the United States is no prescription for commercial success, but the presence of a dynamite little girl at the center of things could, along with critical praise and enlightened handling, push this most unlikely but entirely elating drama into a successful specialized theatrical release.
The first few minutes alone establish Zeitlin as some kind of heir to Terrence Malick in the way he makes nature register onscreen. The images of thick green flora and fauna, the wetness, the wildlife that is always “feedin’ and squirtin,’ ” in the words of young heroine, the proximity of water and land and sense of the area’s precariousness, stuck out on its own away from the mainland but within sight of a hulking industrial area, all back up 6-year-old Hushpuppy’s contention that she and her dad live in “the prettiest place on Earth.”...
Undetectably based on a play, by co-scenarist Lucy Alibar, Beasts unequivocally casts a spell, one that emanates from the strange world it inhabits and evokes, as well as from the extraordinarily sensitive and expressive way Zeitlin and his colleagues have rendered it. The director, who made a short film called Glory at Sea in 2006, assembled a sort of collective of artisans to collaborate on this feature, and what has come of it, in the way the exquisite images, fleet cutting, exotic music, vivid naturescapes, native people and local language merge so seamlessly, is a movie that pulsates with the stuff of life. It’s very much an art piece, to be sure, but it feels like a genuine one that, while meditated, speaks fluently and truly for the place, people and culture it so indelibly depicts.