BUENOS AIRES — Helmer Hector Babenco’s Gael Garcia Bernal starrer “El Pasado” (The Past) will be distributed by 20th Century Fox in Latin America.

Pic is produced by Argentina’s K&S Films, which is behind this year’s Cannes contender “Cronica de una fuga.”

Deal excludes Brazil, where Babenco’s HB Filmes has distrib rights.

Babenco shot “The Past” in Buenos Aires this year. Pic is the tale of a thirtysomething guy whose life falls apart after he breaks up with his girlfriend.

Fox senior VP of acquisitions Tony Safford expects a healthy commercial run for “The Past” in Latin America. He said more deals are possible with K&S, run by Oscar Kramer and Hugo Sigman.

Fox distributed Israel Adrian Caetano’s political thriller “Cronica,” a hot seller at Cannes, in Latin America.

It also advanced distribution money for Damian Szifron’s comedy “Tiempo de valientes” (On Probation), about a down-on-his-luck cop and a leftist shrink, which was a hit in Argentina and Spain.

The deals are key for financing and distributing higher-budget movies to bigger audiences — a new trend in a country that has gained attention for festival-laureled auteur films.

K&S, Pablo Bossi’s Pampa Films, Hernan Mussaluppi’s Rizoma Films and a handful of other producers are stepping up budgets for genre pics and using more commercial elements to draw in auds.

K&S will produce Szifron’s next two features for release in 2007 and ’08; the first shoots in May.

Also in the pipeline is the sophomore effort of Santiago Amigorena, a co-production with Mandarin Films with the working title “Another World of Silence.”

Drama, to star Juliette Binoche, will lense in September in Argentina and the U.S. It follows a woman who seeks revenge on the killers of her husband and son.