Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson
Credit: Ken Regan

Image Credit: Ken ReganThe 2011 South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival will host the world premiere of The Beaver, the highly anticipated and hotly debated drama starring Mel Gibson as a depressed man who creates an alter-ego in the form of a beaver hand-puppet. Jodie Foster directed the drama, and stars as Gibson’s long-suffering wife. The film — which was pushed from its planned Fall 2010 release date in the wake of leaked recordings of Gibson ranting at ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva — will screen March 16 in the festival’s Centerpiece slot in advance of its March 23 limited release in theaters.

The festival, which runs from March 11 – 19 in Austin, Tex., has also announced a handful of other major premieres in its line up, including:

— The North American premiere of Paul, the sci-fi road comedy directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad), about two British UFO geeks (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who also penned the screenplay) who happen upon a real-life E.T. named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen) who’s just escaped from Area 51. (The film hits theaters March 18.)

— The world premiere of Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop, a documentary following the late night host on his post-NBC “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour,” directed by Rodman Flender.

— The world premiere of the documentary It’s About You, which tracks John Mellencamp’s summer 2009 U.S. tour as he recorded his new album No Better Than This, directed by photographer Kurt Markus and his son Ian.

— The world premiere of The Innkeepers, an indie horror film starring Sara Paxton (The Last House on the Left), Pat Healy (Rescue Dawn), and Kelly McGillis, about employees of a purported haunted hotel who attempt to prove their workplace is, indeed, rife with ghosts.

— The world premiere of the documentary Square Grouper, about the 1970s Miami pot smuggling scene.

Read more: