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Berlinale Awards

by Sydney Levine
February 20, 2011 7:20 AM
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Separation's Director Asghar Farhadi accepting the Golden Bear

What a thrill is was to go to the Closing Night of the Berlinale. It felt like a night among royalty. Dieter Kosslick, with his funny twists in welcoming guests and sponsors, was accompanied by a golden comedienne who translated into English, occasionally lapsing into other unintelligible languages. My stars are those of the business world. The international audience included Francine Brucher, head of Swiss Films, Claudia Landsberger head of Holland's Eye Film Institute, Mohammad Esfandiari of Farabi Cinema Foundation (Iran), etc. and when Beki Probst entered, my section (I was sitting among my market colleagues) almost broke into a standing ovation. It has been a great market with lots of sales, more pickups from Sundance than ever before which were selling well along with the rest, winning prizes (On the Ice notably won Best First Feature giving me extra nachas for having blogged about it in Sundance.). And the festival fare was solid. The antiticipation among us was high; while we had been tipped that Iran's Nader and Simin: A Separation might win, we were astounded that Isabella Rossellini's jury awarded both Best Actor and Best Actress Awards to the entire male and female ensembles of the film as well. How thrilling to be among the Iranians at that moment, to share their joy after having received rather mixed government orders to return home when the popular uprising took hold once again in Iran. To be at an international film festival in the midst of the world's upheavals, seeing films from the very countries in the news was another extraordinary experience I shall never forget.

After the Awards, we watched A Separation, a complex and beautiful film about the nature of justice which cannot exist if it is based upon a lie, how all adults lie even with the best intentions, and how the children, who only want love and truth are the ones to suffer the results. To cap it off, Memento, the international sales company of Emilie Georges with mistress of sales Tanya Meissner, sold off almost every territory by showtime Saturday night, an equally rare event for the festival films, even for the winners. "We had offers five minutes after the very first market screening before any press review came out," said Meissner. See Rights Roundup for sales.

For all awards see IndieWIRE.

Nader and Simin: A Separation When his wife leaves him, Nader hires a young woman to take care of his suffering father. But he doesn't know his new maid is not only pregnant, but also working without her unstable husband's permission.

Starring Sareh Bayat, Sarina Farhadi, Leila Hatami (Silver Bear Winners for Best Actress - ensemble)

Peyman Moadi, Ali Asghar Shahbazi, Babak Karimi (Silver Bear Winners for Best Actor - ensemble)

Variety: "Many distributors understood not only that this movie is a real milestone but that it can also address a large audience," says Tanya Meissner.

As of Saturday the film had sold to U.K. (Artificial Eye), Germany (Alamode), Italy (Sacher), So. Koria (Jin Jin), Sweden (Folkets Bio), Norway (Arthaus), Denmark (Camera) Brazil (Imovision), Portugal (Alambique), Turkey (Mars), Thailand (Sahamongkol) and Argentina-Uruguay-Paraguay-Chile (Alfa Films). Also sold are Benelux, Austria, Spain, Greece, Poland, Switzerland, Australia-New Zealand and former-Yugoslavia. Memento Films Distribution will release it in France. Arriving in Berlin with no presales, it is a rare event that an art film sells out in all territories in its first market. "We had offers five minutes after the very first market screening before any press review came out," said Tanya Meissner, head of sales. "Many distributors understood not only that this movie is a real milestone but that it can also address a large audience."

Farhadi's no stranger to Berlin success: He won a director 2009 Silver Bear for About Elly, his second film. Now he has a Golden Bear and, crucially, a market.

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