A new US distributor has acquired first-time feature director Kim Farrant’s Strangerland after its world premiere in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at Sundance.

Alchemy (formerly Millennium Entertainment) will release the drama starring Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes and Hugo Weaving in a deal brokered by CAA. Bill Lee launched Alchemy after a management-buy out of Millennium, backed with a $US40 million credit line.

The deal is worth at least $US1.5 million and will guarantee theatrical release in 15 US markets, The Wrap reported after Deadline.com broke the story.

Transmission Films has the Australian/NZ rights to the drama produced by Naomi Wenck and Macdara Kelleher, scripted by Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons. The plot follows Kidman and Fiennes as they search for their teenage children played by model Maddison Brown in her acting debut and Nicholas Hamilton (Mako: Island of Secrets), who disappear in the Outback.

Weaving portrays the cop who leads the investigation, with Lisa Flanagan (The Gods of Wheat Street, Redfern Now) as an Indigenous woman who is having an affair with Weaving character and Meyne Wyatt (The Sapphires, Redfern Now) as a handyman who works for the couple.

IndieWire’s Anne Thompson described Strangerland as a “sexily atmospheric and disturbing Outback drama starring an excellent Nicole Kidman.”

The Hollywood Reporter’s Boyd van Hoeij was ambivalent, praising the performances but lamenting a lack of chemistry between Kidman and Fiennes and an inability to fully develop the mystery angle and police investigation.

The Film Stage’s Heath Jones opined that while the film “can feel over-extended at points, often suffering from melodrama that seems to go from zero to one hundred in a second, it is Kidman and Fiennes’ expert balance of their characters’ noble and deplorable acts that keep the viewer wanting more…. While many moments of Strangerland can be hard to watch, one certainly does not want to look away.”

However The Playlist’s Jenni Miller labelled the plot as deeply confused, declaring, “Director Kim Farrant makes good use of the Australian landscape and her stars, but after a few sunrises and sunsets, it all begins to blur together.”

Farrant, who has signed with the US agency Gersh, directed episodes of TV’s Rush and the documentary Naked on the Inside.

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