MADRID -- Proving there is still an arthouse market in Spain, however contracted in size, Golem has tied down Spanish rights to Ari Folman's Cannes Directors' Fortnight opener "The Congress," Bertrand Tavernier's upcoming "Quai d'Orsay" and Michael Haneke docu-feature "Michael H. Profession: Director."

Deals add to already announced pacts struck at Cannes on two competition titles: Ashgar Farhardi's Memento Films Intl.-sold "The Past," for which Berenice Bejo took best actress, and Jia Zhangke's best screenplay winner "A Touch of Sin," sold by MK2 Intl.

Before the festival, Golem acquired a trio of Cannes titles from Wild Bunch: Hirokazu Kore-eda's family drama "Like Father, Like Son," which nabbed Cannes' jury prize; another competition player, Francois Ozon's "Young & Beautiful," which has sold out for Wild Bunch worldwide; and Claire Denis' Un Certain Regard player "The Bastards."

Repped by The Match Factory, and five years in the making, Folman's Hollywood lambasting follow-up to "Waltz With Bashir," the Robin Wright starrer drew mixed reviews on the Croisette, though few reviewers questioned its ambition or Wright's central performance.

Sold by Pathe Intl., Tavernier's 25th film and his first comic-book adaptation - of Christophe Blain and Abel Lanzac's political satire of France's ministry of foreign affairs under Domnique de Villepin -- "Quai d'Orsay" looks like a shoo-in for a big late-summer festival.

A talking-heads portrait of the Austrian director, Yves Montmayeur's "Michael H," repped by Films Boutique, features interviews with Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Beatrice Dalle and, above all, Haneke himself.

Based out of Madrid and the northern city of Pamplona, celebrated by Ernest Hemingway for its bull runs, Golem owns 35 screens at seven cinema theaters, ranging from upscale multiplexes to its flagship Alphaville arthouse in central Madrid.

Golem's acquisition announcement comes six weeks after Spain's Alta, another top Spanish arthouse distributor-exhibitor, announced it was shuttering its distribution division, Alta Classics.

Spain's arthouse market has been ravaged by piracy, crisis and, from last September, a hike on Spanish cinema tickets sales tax from 8% to 21%.

Golem's acquisition strategy is to buy more not fewer titles, spreading risk over a more ample portfolio of acquisitions, Golem co-founder Josetxo Moreno told Variety.

Over 30 years, Golem has developed long-term relationships with sales agents on the films by some of the world's most prominent auteurs: Lars von Trier, Michael Haneke, Robert Guediguian and Hirokaku Kore-eda. That has allowed Golem to avoid bidding wars on titles, said Moreno.

With Spain's new cinema theater sales tax kicking in from September, Moreno spent much of his energy at Berlin and Cannes attempting to persuade sales agents that Spanish distributors could not pay once traditional prices for Spain.

"We're still distributing, but with difficulties in difficult times," he concluded.
After Alta Classics' demise, those words ring truer than ever.