Fine Line snags rights to ‘Desert’

Fine Line Features, in its first acquisition out of the Telluride Film Festival, has gulped down North American rights to “Passion in the Desert,” the feature film directing debut of Lavinia Currier.

Pic stars British actor Ben Daniels (“Beautiful Thing”) and French thesp Michel Piccoli (“Belle de Jour”).

Currier directed, produced and co-wrote the pic, based on the 19th-century Balzac novella.

Story follows a young officer in Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign in 1798. The soldier is stranded in the desert and must deal with a wild leopard.

New Line Cinema president and chief operating officer Michael Lynne brought the pic into New Line’s arthouse division.

“It has always been our mandate to showcase daring new talent and this project is in keeping with that tradition,” Lynne said.

Currier’s only other helming duty came with the documentary “Heart of the Garden,” a pic that was picked up and aired on A&E.

The acquisition follows Fine Line’s active participation at the Cannes Film Festival, where it picked up Atom Egoyan’s “The Sweet Hereafter” (also at Telluride), Woody Allen’s “Deconstructing Harry” (at the Venice Film Festival) and Giuseppe Tornatore’s “Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean,” which will mark Tornatore’s first English-language pic.

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