Nair’s ‘Monsoon’ engulfs USA

Co. acquires domestic rights to ensemble laffer

CANNES — USA Films has paid under $1 million to acquire domestic distribution rights to Mira Nair’s ensemble comedy “Monsoon Wedding.”

Pic, produced by Caroline Baron and Nair and written by Sabrina Dhawan, is set in Nair’s Punjabi culture where ancient tradition and dot-com modernity combine for a wedding ceremony.

Pic was expected to go through IFC’s own distribution arm, IFC Films, until USA Films came through with a last-minute bid Tuesday that kept the negotiators up until dawn Wednesday.

Deal was brokered by the film’s exec producers, Jonathan Sehring and Caroline Kaplan, for IFC, Bart Walker for ICM on behalf of Nair, and Avy Eschenasy, exec VP of business affairs, for USA Films.

Steven Raphael, senior VP of acquisitions and production, and Amanda Klein, VP of acquisitions and production, were responsible for bringing the film to USA Films. Orfeo Films Intl. has already sold the film to Ocean (France), Key Films (Italy) and Monopole Pathe (Switzerland).

“Each and every year at Cannes, we make it our business to discover one film that stands out to bring to America,” said USA Films chairman Scott Greenstein, president Russell Schwartz and president of production Donna Gigliotti in a statement. In 1999 the company picked up “Rosetta” and last year it was Wong Kar-wai’s “In the Mood for Love.”

Said Nair, “I am thrilled that USA Films is going to distribute the film in North America with as much passion, commitment and love that I put into making it.”

Nair is currently directing “Hysterical Blindness,” starring Uma Thurman, for HBO. Her other features include “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love,” “My Own Country,” “The Perez Family,” “Mississippi Masala” and “Salaam Bombay!” “Bombay” won the Camera d’Or in 1988 and nabbed an Oscar nomination for best foreign-language film.