Fox Searchlight Pictures isin final negotiations to take all worldwide distribution rights outside the UKto Thirteen, one of only a smallhandful of dramatic competition films to have excited buyers during the firstfew days of this year's Sundance Film Festival.

Although no distributiondeals had been formally announced by the end of the first weekend, it is alsobelieved that Lions Gate Films were closing in on The Cooler, while Paramount Classics had its eye on TheUnited States Of Leland.

Thirteen, which marks the directorial debut of noted productiondesigner Catherine Hardwicke, proved one of the early talking points of thefestival, in part because the film drew directly on the sex and drug-fueled LAexperiences of teenage co-star Nikki Reed, who wrote the screenplay withHardwicke.

Thirteen was part financed by the London's Working TitleFilms, which is holding back UK rights in order to control local distributionthere, with ICM handling sales for the rest of the world.

Already seems a good bet forsome kind of Sundance jury prize, Thirteen was widely praised by domestic buyers even though many felt it was atough buying proposition: its dark R-rated material will exclude American teensfrom being allowed the see the film in the US, leaving their worried parents asthe target demographic. An asking price of around $2m is thought to have beenquoted.

Wayne Kramer's The Cooler, which stars William H Macy, Alec Baldwin andactress Maria Bello in a standout role as a cocktail waitress, was produced byNew York's ContentFilm, which is selling the film through its newly createdinternational arm. WMA Independent is brokering the domestic deal. Although United Artists had expressed some interest in thefilm, which is set against the casinos of Las Vegas, it appears that Lions Gatemay end up taking the film.

The United States OfLeland, produced by Kevin Spacey'sTrigger Street and sold internationally through MDP Worldwide, marks thedirectorial debut of Matthew Ryan Hoge. At press-time, Paramount Classics,which typically adds international territories such as the UK and Japan to itsdomestic purchases, was tipped as the keenest to acquire the film.

Among the other highlightsin a Sundance that has so far yielded more disappointments than criticalfavourites has been Aisling Walsh's Song For A Raggy Boy, a European co-financed drama about an abusive Catholicschool for boys in Ireland in 1939. The film, which stars Aidan Quinn and IainGlenn and is being handled by Lolafilms, received an extended standing ovationafter its initial screening as part of the World Cinema section.

Thomas Vinterberg's It's AllAbout Love, another film to havereceived financing support from a number of European countries, was alsoproving a hot item after its world premiere over the weekend, with manyimpressed by its haunting and surreal vision of the future.

Also receiving very strongword-of-mouth was Peter Hedges' Pieces Of April, a Thanksgiving-from-Hell tale that was made ondigital video by the same team that last year's Sundance hits, PersonalVelocity and Tadpole. It is also challenging for jury honours in thedramatic competition.