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Oscar Watch: Iceland – Mamma Gogo directed by Fridrik Thor Fridrikson

Oscar Watch: Iceland - Mamma Gogo directed by Fridrik Thor Fridrikson

Fridik Thor Fridrickson, an old friend our ours, is here in town thumping for the Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. The N.Y. Times blog The Carpetbagger gives pretty comprehensive coverage of Mamma Gogo, a Meta-Comedy About Movies and Alzheimers.

When his Children of Nature was one of five finalists for the Oscar in 1992, losing eventually to Mediterraneo from Italy, the experience thrust Fridrick and the Icelandic film business onto the world stage where it has remained ever since. The recent economic crash, landing first in Iceland before going on to Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain has put the industry into jeopardy with a current 35% cut in government support for the arts. Starting in 2012 we will see fewer films coming from Iceland. Fridrick is lucky in that he has had 20 years to explore the ins and outs of European co-production funding, but the new young filmmakers will not have that advantage as they search for money to make their films.

Fridrick is looking at his life work and how interrelated all his films are. The autobiographical in nature starting with Movie Days (1994) which dealt with his own childhood in Reykjavik in the 60s and the question of Why become a filmmaker. Mamma Gogo is also quite autobiographical by way of his own dealing with his mother’s Alzeimer’s (diagnosed 12 years ago, and she is still living into her 90s) and his own financial woes. And Mamma Gogo is also related to the HBO Doc, A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism with Kate Winslet which took 3 1/2 years to make. Both deal with Autism and Alzeimers and the communication with those stricken.

Doctors believe that there can be a cure for Alzheimers within 3 years but research in California, a leader in this field has stopped due to budget cuts imposed by Sacramento. The film is important to see not only for its own sake, but because friends will recognize so many characteristics they are now seeing in their own aging family members.

Iceland’s population of 330,000 took to the movies when Children of Nature attained world fame.

Then, like now, we had very little money, so the nomination was kind of a gift from heaven, shining a spotlight on such a small society. That year, mine was the only film produced in Iceland. But it really helped us start our film industry, and afterwards we were able to get some money to buy lighting and sound equipment and use it for the benefit of the whole industry.

U.S. distribution is holding until the announcement of the Oscar short list of nominations. Meanwhile it premiered on HBO and then played 2 weeks in N.Y. and a week in L.A. It did very well in Iceland where 20% of the population saw the film and it received good reviews. Its premiere at TIFF also garnered positive reviews and U.S. Timeout gave it a 4 out of 4 point rating. It may go on to show at Tribeca. The major international sales by Bavaria will begin after the Academy Awards.

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