May 9, 2013
Sundance Takes A Look At
Animal Moms On Mother’s Day
By SUE MANNING
Los Angeles (AP) Isabella Rossellini’s search for the meaning of maternal instinct in ``Mammas’’ looks at nine animals where things like polygamy, lying and dying convince her that ``anything goes.’’
The program timed to air Mother’s Day on the Sundance Channel is just the latest offbeat offering from the model-actress, who gets in costume and plays the parts of the animals.
In ``Mammas,’’ Rossellini dresses as a mother spider, wasp, hamster, toad, cuckoo, dunnock, oil beetle, piping plover and cichlid fish to show how each brings her young into the world. The shorts also launch on sundancechannel.com on Mother’s Day.
``Mammas’’ is suggestive, but the episodes are mostly for comedy and entertainment, Rossellini said. They are also food for thought, the 60-year-old New Yorker believes.
Several women biologists, challenging popular thinking about maternal instinct, recently studied how animals behave, Rossellini said. Many people believe all mothers are altruistic, nurturing, protective and unselfish but they are not, she said.
``Some mothers eat their babies if there are too many in a litter, other mothers abandon their babies into other birds’ nests for mothers who are not even of the same species to raise; mothers do not get pregnant always with the belly, but sometimes hold the babies in their mouth, they are cheek pregnant or back pregnant,’’ she said.
``This is what I am telling in the films. I’m saying that conventional idea we have that mothers are ready to sacrifice themselves has been proven incorrect.’’
Rossellini is enrolled at Hunter College in New York, working toward a master’s degree in animal behavior. ``I have been interested in animals since I was a child,’’ she said.
Rosellini in Mammas, on the Sundance Channel
``Mammas’’ didn’t start out as a Mother’s Day project, Rossellini said. It was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in February.
It usually takes about two months after a debut to get it out and that happened to be really close to Mother’s Day, which seemed like perfect timing, she said.
``Mammas’’ is the third in a series requested by Robert Redford for his Sundance Film Festival in Utah. It started with animal sex in ``Green Porno’’ and moved to animal seduction in ``Green Porno Seduce Me.’’ In all of them, she plays the animals in bright costumes and demonstrates what happens. It has endless room to grow, Rossellini said.
``They put `Green Porno’ on the Internet six years ago and it got millions of hits,’’ said the actress (‘’Blue Velvet,’’ ``Death Becomes Her’’) and former model. She writes the scripts, sketches a costume she thinks will work, narrates, directs and plays the animal in every short.
The ``Seduce Me’’ segment was on display in 2010 at the The Wolfsonian-Florida International University Museum in Miami.
``People were completely seduced by the series,’’ museum director Cathy Leff said. ``From a scientific point of view, we learned a lot. She did a lot of research about mating. It was humorous and incredibly charming,’’ she added.
There’s a playful connection to Mother’s Day, Sundance Channel General Manager Sarah Barnett said. ``Isabella gives you a different perspective and a sort of delicious new way of engaging with the idea of being a mother.’’
``Mammas’’ is a work of visual seduction told by ``a distinct and remarkable story teller. She has this unorthodox form and at the same time it’s incredibly accessible and surprisingly funny,’’ Barnett added.
Rossellini is the daughter of Oscar-winning actress Ingrid Bergman and director Roberto Rossellini.
Mother’s Day in Italy when Rossellini was a child wasn’t a big deal. The big holiday was Woman’s Day on March 1. ``It was not just for mothers but for all women,’’ she said.
Rossellini did pay tribute to her mother in the ``Mammas’’ story of the piping plover.
It starts with Rossellini (as a human) doing a dying scene on stage and getting pelted by tomatoes. It switches to her as a piping plover, fooling a fox by pretending to have a broken wing and leading the predator away from her nest.
The camera returns to the human, where it appears more tomatoes are hurled at Rossellini from the moving paper audience. She hides behind a stage curtain and says: ``If I were as talented at pretending as the piping plover, I would be a Sarah Bernhardt, an Ingrid Bergman.’’
She used Bernhardt’s name because she wanted a name that was familiar to people in several countries. She used Bergman’s name ``because I thought mom would be offended’’ if she didn’t.
The simplicity of the bright, handmade costumes and paper props and the complexity of the tech-heavy delivery system added to the appeal of Rossellini’s first two series, Leff said.
She hopes Rossellini will turn to the Wolfsonian if she decides to put ``Mammas’’ on display. ``She’s a real provocateur, which we love,’’ Leff said.
The actress lives near Long Island and has two dogs, a cat, chickens and a vegetable garden.
She also volunteers at the nearby Guide Dog Foundation and for a couple of weeks is fostering a mother dog that just had 10 puppies.
With so much focus on motherhood, does Rossellini have a message for ``Mammas’’ viewers? ``Yes,’’ she said: ``Happy Mother’s Day.’’
It’s All The Rage: Moms & Dads
Taking ‘Stroller Hikes’
By MELISSA KOSSLER DUTTON
Debbie Frazier wants her two children to grow up appreciating the outdoors. So she introduced them to hiking before they could walk.
As a new mom, she routinely loaded Max, now 6, into a stroller and hiked paths near her home in Sunnyvale, Calif. She often invited friends so she would feel more comfortable hiking with a baby, and eventually she created Stroller Hikes, a nonprofit organization dedicated to arranging kid-friendly hikes.
``I wanted to be outside and I wanted to share it with others,’’ said Frazier. ``One of the beautiful things about stroller hiking is everybody knows how to walk and most families have a stroller.’’
Parks around the country are developing programs for families who want to enjoy the outdoors with young children.
``The message is, bring the right equipment and we’ll do the rest,’’ said Meri-Margaret Deoudes, vice president for the National Wildlife Federation’s Be Out There campaign, which is designed to promote outdoor play.
Many parks offer events as a ``gateway’’ for parents to see how easily they can enjoy the outdoors with children, she said from her office in Merrifield, Va.
For instance, in Cleveland, Ohio, the Metroparks park district offers a ``Stroller Science’’ series that often combines a stroll and a kid-friendly nature lesson.
At the Hudson Highlands Land Trust in Garrison, N.Y., event organizers began offering hikes geared to families with strollers or backpack carriers about six years ago, said MJ Martin, director of outreach development. More and more ``intrepid families’’ are taking advantage of it, she said.
``It’s a great movement that we’ve seen grow over the last couple of years,’’ she said. ``Families are not letting the age of their children hold them back. We added family-friendly hikes that include parents and caregivers with toddlers and babies.’’
Karen Kapoor of Cold Springs, N.Y., and her husband, Dinesh, routinely take their 7-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter out into the woods. ``We’ve been hiking since my daughter was a teeny-tiny baby,’’ she said.
``I like to get out for myself. It’s easier to take them along than find a babysitter.’’
The kids have developed an interest in hiking. Seven-year-old Raunag dislikes it when his mom hikes without him.
``I like watching the animals,’’ he said. ``We see birds and bugs and caterpillars on leaves.’’
When their daughter was small, the Kapoors preferred a backpack carrier to a stroller since many of the trails near their home have a bit of incline.
In Florida, parents have a variety of trail choices, said Sandra Friend of Orlando, who has written several hiking guides about the state. Many county parks there have boardwalks or crushed shell trails that take parents through interesting natural environments and landscapes. The parks systems have focused on accessibility for families and older adults, she said.
``They’re thinking about all ends of the spectrum,’’ she said. ``They want to make it safe and easy for people to get outdoors.’’
Sometimes, she sees the telltale ``parallel tracks’’ of a stroller on sand trails and imagines that pushing a stroller though that must have been ``quite a workout.’’
Stroller Hikes, which offers multiple events in the San Francisco Bay area each week, has expanded to include a wide variety of hiking options, Frazier said. Events take place on everything from paved paths in the city to beaches to off-road trails. Frazier and her volunteers rate the difficulty of the trails and recommend either a traditional stroller, a jogging stroller or a backpack carrier.
With the right equipment, it’s possible to get a workout and travel a good distance, Frazier said.
Volunteer hike leaders show newcomers safe places to walk and the ins and outs of hiking with little ones, she said.
``Parents want to know, `What’s going to be safe?’ and `How do you change a diaper outside?’’’ Frazier said. ``We know where you can safely go with children. We’ll change diapers in public. We’ll nurse in public.’’