Jonás Cuarón’s Thriller ‘Desierto’ Acquired by STX Entertainment (EXCLUSIVE)

STX Entertainment has acquired North American distribution rights to “Desierto,” Variety has learned.

The immigration thriller was directed by “Gravity” screenwriter Jonás Cuarón and stars Gael García Bernal (“Y Tu Mama Tambien”) and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (“Watchmen”). It debuted this month at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it received strong reviews for its performances and direction, and won the Special Presentation Prize from the International Federation of Film Critics.

“‘Desierto’ operates on a level that is swift, primal and unrelenting,” wrote Variety critic Justin Chang in a favorable notice.

The film centers on a group of Mexicans whose attempts to cross the border into the United States are complicated by a shotgun-wielding vigilante. Given the headlines Donald Trump has generated by attacking immigration policy during the recent presidential race, the subject matter is certainly topical.

STX Entertainment made a splash two weeks ago when it acquired another Toronto Film Festival release, the horror film “Hardcore,” for $10 million. The company was launched last year by producer Robert Simonds with the goal of fielding 12 to 15 films a year. It scored a hit last summer with the psychological thriller “The Gift.” Its upcoming releases include “The Secret in Their Eyes,” a remake of the Oscar-winning Argentinian film of the same name with Nicole Kidman and Julia Roberts; and “The Free State of Jones,” an action-drama starring Matthew McConaughey.

“I am thrilled to be working with STX on the release of my film,” said Cuarón.  “STX is a smart and creative company.  They are such a great fit for ‘Desierto.’”

“Desierto” marks Cuaron’s sophomore directing effort, following 2007’s “Year of the Nail.” He produced the film along with his father Alfonso Cuarón, as well as Carlos Cuarón, Alex García, and Charles Gillibert.  David Linde, Gael García Bernal, Nicolas Celis, and Santiago García Galván are the film’s executive producers. Cuarón wrote the film with Mateo García.

The deal reunites STX Entertainment Motion Picture Group chairman Adam Fogelson with Alfonso Cuarón and Linde. The three men worked together on Cuaron’s sic-fi drama “Children of Men” while Fogelson and Linde were at Universal Pictures.

“We are really excited to have this film at STX,” said Linde.  “We were really impressed with Adam Fogelson’s enthusiasm for the film and loved the smart and collaborative things he and his team said about their plans for our release.”

“We are extremely proud to acquire this outstanding motion picture,” said Fogelson. “Jonás has delivered a gripping and suspense-filled thriller that explores complicated human emotions against an unforgiving landscape that is as vital to the story as space was to ‘Gravity.’  This story and these characters will keep audiences talking long after they leave the theatre.”

UTA brokered the deal for “Desierto.”

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