Mammas films by Isabella Rossellini. 2013, USA, 13 min. The great actress puts on funny animal costumes for these surprising and totally original studies of maternal instinct.


It’s Mother’s Day this weekend in the US and we’re screening a selection of six shorts from Isabella Rossellini’s series Mammas, her unconventional and imaginative series originally made for the Sundance Channel. In 2-minute episodes Rossellini acts out a menagerie of maternal behaviors in delightfully ridiculous animal costumes and DIY decors, combining the comedic instincts of a master performer with her lifelong love of bugs and beasts and a genuine sense of scientific inquiry.


Rossellini has been interested in animals since childhood, and late in her career decided to pursue a master’s degree in animal behavior at New York’s Hunter College. With commissions from Sundance and Robert Redford she turned this passion into art, beginning with the three acclaimed Green Porno series, which focused on reproduction  seduction. For the fourth iteration, Rossellini selected the theme of motherhood, inspired by the research of women biologists who had examined and often overturned common assumptions about both animal and human maternal instincts. Rossellini enlisted biologist Marlene Zuck as an expert consultant on the project, making sure the films, for all their absurdity, were biologically accurate even in fine anatomical details.



“I’ve always been interested in animal behavior, and I keep reading about it because it’s so surprising all the time — so many things are happening around us that we neglect to look at. Part of the passion I have for biology is based on this wonderment.” ISABELLA ROSSELLINI


From the Green Porno series’ start in 2008, the films were early viral sensations – partly thanks to Rossellini’s prescient thinking about small screen and internet filmmaking. The films are marvelously simple and creative with minimal resources. As she told a collaborator on the series, Gregorio Franchetti, “I like to do films that, when my audience sees them, they can think they can do them themselves in the kitchen.” The Mammas series in particular is also a touching homage to her mother, actress Ingrid Bergman, who can be seen strolling with a baby Isabella (and pets) in a photo before each episode.


An actress and model since her 20s, Rossellini is known for her magnificent performances in the work of auteurs like David Lynch (Blue Velvet, Wild at Heart), Guy Maddin (The Saddest Music in the World, Keyhole) and Abel Ferrara (The Funeral). She has written three memoirs, including one of her father, Italian neorealist director Roberto Rossellini. She recently played roles in Brad Bird’s Incredibles 2 (2018) and Chanya Button’s Vita & Virgina (2018), and has revisited the animal kingdom with live versions of Green Porno and circus performances assisted by her dog, Peter Pan.


Special thanks to Isabella Rossellini and Sundance TV for making this screening possible.

Credits for
Isabella Rossellini
written by
Isabella Rossellini
produced by
Claude Marquet
Frédéric Martial-Wetter
Guillaume Le Braz
Marc Chouarain
production design
Jean-Hugues de Chatillon
costume design
Jean-Hugues de Chatillon