Suzhou, the clandestinely-made Chinese film that became one of the hottest films at this year''s European Film Market in Berlin, has secured a US theatrical release through Strand Releasing.

The Shanghai-set melodrama, which is the second feature by Chinese director Lou Ye, was produced on a budget of $600,000 by Essential Film Production and Dream Factory. It won the VPRO Tiger award at January''s Rotterdam festival and now has invitations to a further dozen festivals.

The film had already attracted several North American distribution offers during last month''s American Film Market, according to The Co-production Office, the Berlin-based production and sales boutique that is handling Suzhou. However, Co-production Office managing director Philippe Bober said he preferred to secure separate deals for the US and Canada. The film has now been licensed to Film Tonic for Canada.

With Artificial Eye also taking Suzhou for the UK and New Action for Hong Kong and Taiwan, the film has secured distribution in as many as 21 territories, with advanced discussions still going on with theatrical distributors in Australia, Italy and Germany, said Bober.

Previously completed sales include German TV (Arte, Bayerischer Rundfunk), Japan (Uplink), France (Goutte d''Or), Austria (Polyfilm), Switzerland (Filmcooperative), Benelux (Contact), Finland (Cinema Mondo), Sweden (Triangel) and South Korea (CNP).