UPDATE: Fox Searchlight has made the deal official. The release is below the original story.

BREAKING: Fox Searchlight has closed its second big deal of the festival, capturing U.S rights to Beasts Of The Southern Wild, the Benh Zeitlin-directed film that created a ton of buzz since its premiere last Friday at the Eccles Theater. Several distributors were chasing, and Searchlight was rumored to be the most eager since that screening. Last night, Fox Searchlight paid $6 million for world rights to The Surrogate. WME Global sold this one.

Zeitlin wrote the script with Lucy Alibar, and the film stars Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. The logline: Waters gonna rise up, wild animals gonna rerun from the grave, and everything south of the levee is goin’ under in this tale of a 6-year-old named Hushpuppy, who lives with her daddy at the edge of the world. The film is in the U.S. Dramatic Competition, and to hear festivalgoers tell it, is a strong contender. Last weekend, the film won the Sundance Institute’s Indian Paintbrush Producer’s Award. Here’s the release:

Meglet
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3 years
2 mil.
Curious
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3 years
How much?
Fellow
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3 years
This film is amazing. The performances are raw & compelling, the script is well written, & the...

PARK CITY, UT January 24, 2012 – Fox Searchlight Pictures Presidents Stephen Gilula and Nancy Utley announced today that the company has acquired U. S. rights to the fantastical drama BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD. Directed by Benh Zeitlin and written by Lucy Alibar and Zeitlin, BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD stars Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry. The film was produced by Michael Gottwald, Dan Janvey and Josh Penn. Philipp Engelhorn, Paul Mezey and Michael Raisler are executive producers . The film is scheduled to be released in 2012.

“In his feature film debut, Benh Zeitlin has crafted a visually stunning and deeply poetic film that captured our hearts. The amazing performances by newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis and Dwight Henry are a wonder to behold,” said Utley and Gilula.

“The making of ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ was defined by a deliberate, collaborative process and we’re thrilled that Fox Searchlight Pictures has embraced the spirit of the film,” said Gottwald, Janvey and Penn.

“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. Fox Searchlight came to the table with big hearts and fierce resolve, they’re a perfect match for the project,” said Zeitlin.

In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight’s Vice President of Acquisitions Ray Strache, Executive Vice President of Worldwide Acquisitions Tony Safford and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Megan O’Brien with WME Global’s Graham Taylor and Mark Anker and Andre Des Rochers of Gray Krauss Stratford Des Rochers LLP on behalf of the filmmakers.