Director Sigurður Anton Friðþjófsson, who goes by Toni—a play on his middle name—is known for his comedic works that play with heavy subject matter. His debut movie, ‘Webcam,’ was about a young lady entering the world of online stripping. His second, ‘Snjór og Salome,’ told the story of a woman dealing with her cheating boyfriend. But his newest offering, ‘Mentor,’ he says is a lot more fun. “This doesn’t really get that heavy,” he says. “It’s just kinda 90 minutes of fun.”
Act 1. Synopsis
In ‘Mentor,’ a 17-year-old girl named Beta wants to enter a stand-up comedy competition, despite having never set foot on stage. In search of feedback on her set, she contacts Hugo, a comedian who won the competition ten years earlier, sending him down memory lane in the process. “He takes it really seriously and starts getting nostalgic, reevaluating where he is in his life, and if he’s where he wants to be,” Toni says. Meanwhile, Beta is simply trying to overcome her insecurities in her own act.
The film was inspired by characters from Toni’s own life, particularly Þórhallur Þórhallsson, who won the award for funniest man in Iceland back in 2007. He doesn’t live in the past like Hugo does, but Toni says that it’s a running inside joke that he does. Other moments were directly lifted from his own experiences as a standup comedian. “I know the community and all the people,” he says, adding that he still goes to see shows whenever possible.
Act 2. Exposition
Joe Swanberg, Kevin Smith, and (in a perhaps surprising departure) Nicolas Winding Refn were particularly influential for the director. But would Toni ever enter the dark world of Refn? “Yeah,” he says. “[But] my personal opinion is that every film should have at least some jokes. Otherwise it’s not really realistic. It’s 90 minutes and no one cracks a joke? That doesn’t feel real.”
Act 3. Production
The film was in production for just over a year. Parts of the movie were shot in major locations in the Reykjavík comedy scene. “We shot two days in the Secret Cellar and one day in Gaukurinn,” he says. “It was like I was shooting a part of my life.” A number of local standup comedians make appearances in the movie, as well.
In the future, he plans to make more movies, focusing on naturalistic acting, improvisation, and sticking to a low budget. “I really like indie movies,” he says.
‘Mentor’ will show in Smárabíó and Háskólabíó, as well as theatres across the country starting June 24th.
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