Tribeca Film Festival Preview – How to Make Your Country a Punchline. The Iceland Cometh?

Remember Iceland, the island nation whose inhabitants are so beautiful that todays version of  Dr. Evil tried to buy the rights to its gene pool? Iceland is also the place that managed its economy so carefully for decades that it provided one of the worlds highest standards of living for its 275,000 people. That was, as they say, very September 10th.

Several years ago, some restless bankers in Iceland, thinking they could do better, promised soaring rates of interest to depositors and offered them accounts over the Internet. It all looked good for a while, kind of like sub-prime mortgages and the idea of privatizing Social Security.  Then the house of cards fell. Depositors lost their money, Iceland lost its nest egg and its self-esteem. And a few of the bankers fled to places from which they could not be extradited.

All of this comes for purposes of introducing Jon Gnarr, the comedian who ran for the position of mayor of Reykjavik, the countrys capital. The voters elected him. Maybe they figured that, if all was lost anyway, at least theyd have a laugh or two. And who are we to ridicule them? Americans elected Ronald Reagan (twice for governor, twice for president), Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Paul Lepage (the belligerent master of unintentional humor whos now governor of Maine) and Rick Santorum (the Pennsylvania Right-to-Life ex-senator who took a 20-week fetus that his wife miscarried home for a night so his kids could get to know their brother.)

An eponymous documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival tells his story.

Jon Gnarr ran a straight talk campaign that would have frightened Jon McCain. He called for importing a polar bear so tourists would visit the zoo. He called for importing Jews to teach Icelanders how to make money. He told old people not to be boring.  He said he was becoming mayor for the money and the beach house. (Imagine what hed say about the Tea Party.) And he won.

In filming Gnarr, Gaukur Ulfarsson took the most logical approach. He turned the camera on and followed Jon Gnarr around. It was a hot campaign.

Gnarr ended up doing far less damage than the professional managers whom he was ridiculing. You could call this a cautionary tale, but that wouldnt tell you how funny this irreverent documentary is as it mocks the experts who drove Iceland to a meltdown.

Still, at the triumphant end of the feverish campaign, you get the sense that revenge is best as a dish served cold. The Icelanders are sure to learn that as they wait for their economy to recover. Maybe well learn it in the US some day.






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