English actress Kate Winslet announced yesterday that she has established a fund to support people with autism in cooperation with Margrét Dagmar Ericsdóttir, the mother of autistic Icelandic boy Keli, the star of the documentary A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism (original title: Sólskinsdrengurinn, or “The Sunshine Boy”) by director Fridrik Thór Fridriksson, for which Winslet did the English narration.
“It is absolutely Kate Winslet’s foundation, she is the pioneer of this project,” Ericsdóttir told Fréttabladid. It is called The Golden Hat Foundation, in reference to a poem Keli wrote. The project was presented in the US yesterday and at the same time the foundation’s website was launched.
Ericsdóttir said she is almost speechless about the actress’s efforts and energy. “She calls Keli at least once a week and talks with him, even if Keli can’t talk back.” Ericsdóttir also mentioned that she is grateful for the efforts of Dorrit Moussaieff, the Icelandic president’s wife, who established the connection with Winslet.
Ericsdóttir said it has always been the goal to start a foundation; the documentary was only supposed to be the beginning. “But when my husband and I flew to the Toronto International Film Festival on September 11 last year, I had sort of given up on it.” But then Winslet brought the plan to action, Ericsdóttir explained.
“I met her in August 2009 when she recorded the narration for the film. We immediately clicked. I sent her an email to thank her for donating her work. She then replied whether she should start a charity foundation for me, whether she could do more to help,” Ericsdóttir told Morgunbladid.
In a press release announcing the launch of the fund, Winslet explained her daughter had indirectly encouraged her to do so. “After having watched A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism with my daughter she turned to me and asked what it would be like if she couldn’t talk to me.”
“When I considered what it would be like for a mother not being able to speak with her own child I realized that I would have to use my voice to raise awareness of this disease,” Winslet stated. She then contacted Virgin owner Richard Branson and asked for his advice.
Ericsdóttir said Branson’s help has been invaluable. “They have helped us a lot. It is a lot of work to establish such [a fund] in the US, a lot of bureaucracy, but they’re helping us with it.”
Ericsdóttir told Fréttabladid she can hardly believe that she is in this place now after the premiere of A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism in Iceland two years ago. “Director Fridrik Thór actually said to me that there might be some magic involved in this film. He might have been right.”
A Mother’s Courage: Talking Back to Autism will be released on DVD this month and all profits will go to The Golden Hat Foundation. Here is a link to the film's website.
Click here to read more about the film.