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Mel is back with puppet therapy

Mel Gibson's return to the big screen will begin at a festival in March -- with a beaver hand puppet.

The Beaver will be premiered at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

Jodie Foster directed and co-stars in The Beaver, which features Gibson as a troubled family man trying to cope with help from an unusual friend -- a beaver puppet he wears on his hand.

The film will be shown a week before a limited public release on March 23.

Its release had been delayed as Gibson dealt with bad publicity from a public breakup with his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva.

Their split has spawned a bitter custody fight over their infant daughter, as well as investigations into claims of physical abuse by the actor-director and extortion by the Russian musician.

Los Angeles prosecutors are still mulling whether to press charges against either Gibson or Grigorieva.


It remains unclear whether Gibson, who last appeared in 2010's Edge of Darkness, will attend South by Southwest.

SXSW film spokeswoman Rebecca Feferman said Foster would attend the premiere when it is shown in the festival's "centrepiece" slot.

Gibson's publicist, Alan Nierob, said in an email that he did not yet know whether the 55-year-old Academy-Award winner would make an appearance.