Australian distributor Palace Films has acquired French director Philippe Lioret’s Welcome and US director Noah Buschel’s The Missing Person.

The two deals were signed by Nicolas Whatson who was recently appointed general manager of Palace.

The Missing Person stars Oscar nominees Michael Shannon and Amy Ryan and is described by Whatson as “a very cool, beautifully-shot film noir”. The story opens with a private detective trailing a man on a train.

Whatson has been negotiating with Visit Films for Australian and New Zealand rights since seeing the film at Sundance.

Welcome, which was selected for Panorama at Berlin, is a drama about a young swimmer wanting to get out of Iraq and move to the UK. Ten days ago it won the audience award at the City of Lights, City of Angels, a week-long presentation of French films in Los Angeles.

“More films from France are acquired for distribution in Australia than from any other non-English speaking country,” said Whatson, who bought Welcome’s rights from Films Distribution.

“If they are high-quality pictures with known stars such as (Daniel) Auteuil or (Juliette) Binoche or (Audrey) Tautou they can be very successful.”

Two of Palace’s last three releases were French and are performing well. I’ve Loved You So Long has taken $1.8m (A$2.4m) in 19 weeks, and Summer Hours has grossed $680,000 (A$900,000) in six weeks.

Palace has just released Tulpan, set in Kazakhstan, and doesn’t go out with another film until UK director Michael Winterbottom’s Genova on November 5.

Whatson consulted on acquisitions for five years before getting the top job at Palace Films.