Two films in the Venice competitionhave been logging strong buyer interest and notching sales evenbefore their world premieres later this week.

Russian first film The Returnby directed by Andrey Zvyagantsev, has added deals with France'sOcean Films and The Netherlands' Contact Films to previous licenceagreeements signed with Switzerland's Frenetic and Italy's Lucky Red.

Sales agent Raissa Fomina ofIntercinema Art Agency said that she was fending off serious interestfrom distributors in the UK, North America, Japan and Greece, but isunwilling to sell it blind. Representatives from the four companiesthat have been successful are understood to have seen sneak previewsof the picture in Moscow or Rome. The film about two brothers and themysterious return of their father, gets its first public screeningtomorrow (Sept 2) in Venice and will also show at Montreal andToronto.

Iconic Japanese director TakeshiKitano screens his Zatoichi today (Monday, Sept 1). The filmabout a blind masseur who is also a master swordsman was previouslypicked up by Italy's Mikado from Paris-based sales agent CelluloidDreams. Other deals for the title include Bac Films for France, ShaniFilms for Israel, Maywin Media for Russia, Vertigo for Spain, Blitzfor Croatia, Seviulle for Canada and Prooptiki for Greece.

The UK's Artificial Eye boughtZatoichi, another Venice competitior Alila directed byIsarael's Amos Gitai and the Toronto -bound L'Histoire De Marie EtJulien by veteran French director Jacques Rivette. The samepackage was alsopicked up by Portugal's Madragoa with the addition ofFrancois Ozon's Swimming Pool and animated feature LesTriplettes De Belleville, both of which premiered at Cannes.

"Our policy has been to followdirectors and stick with the distributors that are faithful to them," said Celluloid chief Hengameh Panahi. "Over the years thisapproach has paid dividends."Panahi also reported strong USinterest and said that she had been inundated with requests from USplayers for private screenings.

Takashi's Dolls played incompetition at Venice last year. He previously won the Golden Lionwith Hana-Bi.