Fox Searchlight Pictures President Peter Rice announced today that it has acquired U.S. distribution rights to Writer/Director Deepa Mehta’s Water. The film, which will open the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, marks Mehta’s third feature in her elemental trilogy following the acclaimed Fire and Earth. Every bit as controversial as Mehta’s previous projects, production on Water was shut down in India in 2000 following violent protests and riots by Fundamentalist Hindus and death threats to Mehta. It took nearly five years to revamp the production in Sri Lanka under an assumed name and strict secrecy.
Water was produced by David Hamilton who previously collaborated with Mehta on Fire and Earth as well as her Bollywood/Hollywood. The film was executive produced by Doug Mankoff of Echo Lake Productions and Mark Burton of Accomplice Films and was financed by David Hamilton Productions, Echo Lake Productions and Telefilm Canada.
Said Fox Searchlight Pictures President of Marketing Nancy Utley and Executive Vice President of Production Claudia Lewis: “We are humbled that Deepa has entrusted us with this deeply personal and profoundly significant film. It will be a labor of love for everyone at Fox Searchlight.”
Said Writer/Director Deepa Mehta: “To make Water was akin to climbing Everest; a hard journey. But where to go from there? Having Fox Searchlight distribute the film in the U.S. is like finding a stairway to Heaven. I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Set in 1938 Colonial India, against Mahatma Gandhi’s rise to power, Water begins when 8-year-old Chuyia is widowed and sent to a home where Hindu widows must live in penitence. Chuyia’s feisty presence deeply affects the lives of the other residents, including a young widow, who falls for a Gandhian idealist.
Water stars Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas and Bollywood idol John Abraham. The role of eight-year old Chuyia is played by Sarala, a young Sri Lankan who had no prior experience in front of the camera. Additionally, Sarala spoke neither Hindi nor English and thus learned her lines phonetically. She was directed by Mehta through an interpreter and hand gestures.
The deal was brokered by Fox Searchlight Executive Vice President Joseph De Marco and Senior Vice President of Acquisitions Tony Safford with John Sloss of Cinetic Media and Hengameh Panahi of Celluloid Dreams. Water will be released in Canada on November 4 by Mongrel Media.
To check out pics and the trailer for the film click here.