Palm Pictures has acquired North American and Caribbean rights to the award-winning drama Springtime In A Small Town, the first film from acclaimed director Tian Zhuangzhuang since 1993's The Blue Kite, from Fortissimo Film Sales.

A theatrical release is planned through Palm's Arthouse Films this autumn, followed by a DVD and videorelease in the early part of 2004.

Springtime In A Small Town is the latest addition to the company's slate and follows recent acquisitions of Claude Chabrol's drama The Flower Of Evil, John WWalter's Ray pop art documentary How To Draw A Bunny and Olivier Assayas' thriller demonlover.

It centres on the galvanising effect a stranger's arrival has on a southern Chinese settlement in 1946 and is a remake of Mu Fei's 1948 drama Spring In ASmall Town.

The cast includes rising Chinese stars Wu Jun, Xin Baiquing, Hu Jingfan, Lu Sisi, and Ye Xiaokeng. TimYip, who won an Oscar for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, served as production designer and art director.

Springtime In A Small Town won the Golden Lion at the 2002 Venice Film Festival's Upstream Competition and also screened at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals.

It was acquired for Palm by David Koh, head of acquisitions and production, and Ryan Werner, head of theatrical distribution. The overall deal was negotiated by Mark Ragone, Palm's head of business affairs.

Fortissimo Film Sales was represented by Michael J Werner, co-chairman; Wouter Barendrecht, co-chairman;Winnie Lau, director of international sales; and Andrew Herwitz of the Film Sales Company.

In a statement Koh said:"Springtime In A Small Town is the rare film that establishes itself as an immediate classic in world cinema.

"It is a great honour to include it in our upcoming slate of films, and it exemplifies the kind ofdirector driven work that Palm Pictures and Arthouse Films are dedicated to delivering."