Monsoon Entertainment, the new Los Angeles-based film production company founded by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, A Little Princess) and partner Jorge Vergara, has unveiled its maiden project, The Speed Queen with Christina Ricci attached to star and direct.

Ricci's directorial debut is a dark comedy about a quirky Midwestern girl entangled in a deadly and outlandish chase. Monsoon President and COO Arnaud Duteil, a former Canal Plus production executive, will serve as executive producer along with Emmanuel Itier.

Duteil said, "Alfonso, Jorge and I are extremely excited to launch our new company with Christina Ricci in our first project. We believe Christina has an amazing take on the material and will prove as talented as a director as she has as an actress." Duteil told Screendaily that Monsoon aimed to start shooting the low-budgeted film during the first semester of next year, with Utah as its targeted primary location.

New York-based Good Machine International will handle international sales for Monsoon, continuing a relationship which began with Cuaron's latest film Y Tu Mama Tambien .

The partners stress that the new company will be "filmmaker-friendly," combining low overheads and the financial backing of Vergara to make pictures they care about. They have set no annual quota on the number of films they will produce. Budgets and genres will also remain flexible.

While Monsoon will focus primarily on US feature films, it also plans to tap into European and Asian pools of filmmakers and projects. Latino projects will be handled separately by sister company, Anhelo Producciones, which co-produced Y Tu Mama and is based in Mexico. The company will probably have one privileged relationship with a domestic US distributor.

Vergara, Cuaron and Duteil share greenlighting power and emphasise that as the company is self-financing, all decision-making will be streamlined with no need to subject commitments to third party financing or distribution.

To be produced by Adam Del Deo along with Tri-Tone Entertainment in association with Ricci's production company, Blaspheme Films, The Speed Queen is based on the novel by Stuart O'Nan. Brian Price has written the screenplay adaptation.

Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too) is the second top-grossing local film in Mexico after Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas. The erotically-charged road movie was an official selection of the Toronto, New York and Venice (where it won Best Screenplay) festivals . IFC Films will released it this spring in the US, starting with New York and Los Angeles on March 15 and rolling out to other main cities in April.

Vergara, the producer of Y Tu Mama Tambien , is a highly successful Mexican businessman and arts patron whose Guadalajara-based company Omnilife sells nutritional products throughout Latin America, Spain and the US.

Duteil was a production executive at Canal Plus based in LA for ten years. He was responsible for supervising a number of pictures on behalf of StudioCanal, including Bully by Larry Clark, the upcoming Human Nature by Michel Gondry and The Weight Of Water by Kathryn Bigelow.

Ricci's past credits include The Opposite Of Sex, Buffalo 66, and Sleepy Hollow. She arrives at next month's Sundance Film Festival with three films: HBO's The Larime Project, Miranda And Pumpkin, which she also produced. Ricci stars in and produced Prozac Nation which Miramax is releasing in May 2002. She is represented by ICM.

Monsoon's director of development is Matthew Richmond. Gina Horn is assistant to the Chief Operating Officer. Monsoon is represented by Todd Stern at Weissman, Wolff. Gary Schneider of Kessler, Schneider is responsible for finance and administration. DDA MediaTek is handling corporate media relations.