Exclusive: Memento nearing U.S. deal for Golden Bear winner

Iranian Asghar Farhadi’s Berlin Golden Bear, actor and actress winner, “Nader and Simin, A Separation,” also looks a strong candidate for another crown: Berlin’s 2011 European Film Market’s artpic sales champ.

Boosted by some of the best reviews for any Competition film, plus anticipation of Saturday night kudos, Paris-based Memento Films Intl. locked down U.K. (Artificial Eye), Germany (Alamode), Italy (Sacher), Scandinavia, much of Latin America and many smaller territories late last week.

Bowing Tuesday in Competition, “Nader” hit Berlin with no pre-sales whatsoever. But, as of Saturday, only U.S., Japan, Canada and Mexico were still under negotiation.

U.S. and Japan will close over the weekend, said MFI head of intl. sales and acquisitions, Tanja Meissner.

These days, it is rare for an art film to sell near all premier markets on site at its first festival.

Also since Wednesday, MFI has closed South Korea (Jin Jin), Sweden (Folkets Bio), Norway (Arthaus), Denmark (Camera) Brazil (Imovision), Portugal (Alambique), Turkey (Mars), Thailand (Sahamongkol) and Argentina-Uruguay-Paraguay-Chile (Alfa Films).

Mid-week, “Nader” closed Benelux, Austria, Spain, Greece, Poland, Switzerland, Australia-New Zealand and former-Yugoslavia.

Memento Films Distribution will release “Nader” in France.

Set in modern-day Tehran, the drama pitches a middle-class couple against an impoverished religious family. Toplining Leila Hatami, Peyman Moadi, Shahab Hosseini, and Sareh Bayat, “Nader”‘s ensemble cast also won actor and actress Silver Bears at Berlin Saturday.

Variety described “Nader” as “tense and narratively complex, formally dense and morally challenging.”

“We had offers five minutes after the very first market screening before any press review came out,” said Meissner.

“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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