Beasts of the Southern Wild is toast of Sundance

Director Benh Zeitlin and star Quvenzhane Wallis Beasts of the Southern Wild stars eight-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis

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A film about a six-year-old girl called Hushpuppy and an army of prehistoric creatures has won the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival.

Beasts of the Southern Wild, about one child's attempt to save her ailing father and sinking home, won the grand jury prize for drama.

The House I Live In - a critique of America's war on drugs - won the grand jury documentary prize.

The Helen Hunt film, The Surrogate, won the audience award for best US drama.

Directed by Ben Lewin, the film also received a special jury prize for its ensemble cast, which included Hunt, William H Macy and John Hawkes, in the lead role.

The Surrogate, which is based on the true story of a paralysed 38-year-old man who sets out to lose his virginity, routinely won standing ovations at the festival for independent film.

"I don't think most people have ever seen this sort of story before," Lewin said, after the award ceremony.

"I think it was very new and unexpected. From the experiences I've had seeing it with an audience, it seems to be a real emotional ride."

The film - the subject of a bidding war - has been bought by Fox Searchlight for a reported $6m, the highest-selling film at the festival.

John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H Macy The Surrogate proved to be the biggest commercial success of the festival

Fox Searchlight, the studio behind the mass marketing success of films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Slumdog Millionaire, also brought Beasts of the Southern Wild earlier in the week.

The first-time director Benh Zeitlin, whose film follows a father and daughter in impoverished Louisiana, lavished praise on his eight-year-old star Quvenzhane Wallis, calling her "the biggest person I know."

The Invisible War, a film about rape in the US military, won the US documentary audience award, while Searching for Sugar Man - a Swedish and British collaboration - was the audience pick for World documentary, as well as picking up a special jury prize.

Britain's David Raedeker won the world cinema cinematographer award for My Brother the Devil, but unlike 2011, it proved a quiet year for homegrown talent.

However, two documentaries co-produced by the BBC Four's Storyville strand walked away with prizes.

The House I Live In, a critique of America's War On Drugs by acclaimed film-maker Eugene Jarecki, won the grand jury award; while The Queen Of Versailles, about a 76-year-old billionaire's attempt to build the biggest house in the US, took the US directing prize for documentary.

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