EXCLUSIVE: Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films have acquired all U.S. rights to Francis Lee’s festival breakout God’s Own Country. The feature debut world premiered in Sundance, winning the Special Jury Award for Directing in the World Cinema Competition. It then went on to screen in the Panorama section at Berlin where it won the Männer Magazin Readers’ Jury Award. The studios are planning an early fall theatrical release.

Starring Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu, the contemporary tale of self-discovery and emotional-awakening is set on the sheep farming hills of rural England. Johnny Saxby (O’Connor) works long hours in brutal isolation on his family’s remote farm, numbing the daily frustration of his lonely existence with nightly binge-drinking at the local pub and casual sex. When a handsome Romanian migrant worker (Secareanu) arrives to take up temporary work, Johnny suddenly finds himself having to deal with emotions he has never felt before. An intense relationship forms between the two which could change Johnny’s life forever.

Manon Ardisson and Jack Tarling produce God’s Own Country, a Shudder Films and Inflammable Films production of a BFI and Creative England presentation in association with Met Film. The U.S. deal was negotiated by Peter Goldwyn on behalf of Samuel Goldwyn Films, and Vanessa Saal, Protagonist Pictures’ Head of Worldwide Sales, on behalf of the filmmakers. Protagonist has world sales and previously notched key offshore deals heading into Berlin.

Goldwyn, President of Samuel Goldwyn Films, says the film “is not only a major discovery of prominent new director, Francis Lee, but also of its two leading actors, Josh O’Connor and Alec Secareanu. We along with our partners at Orion Pictures could not be more excited to work with this trio. They have made an unforgettable romantic film for our times.”

Lee is “thrilled to be working with Orion Pictures and Samuel Goldwyn Films for the U.S. release. After the phenomenal audience and critical reaction at Sundance this year, we can’t wait for a wider audience to see our film and their beautiful performances.”