A Story of Children and Film

(UK, 2013, 101 mins, HDCAM)
PRODS Mary Bell, Adam Dawtrey
SCR Mark Cousins
CAM Mark Cousins, Mark Benoliel
ED Timo Langer
MUS Olivier Messiaen, Alijoscha Zimmerman
PROD CO BFI Film / Film 4 / B of A Productions


Children and childhood: these are among the most universal and resonant subjects in all cinema, inspiration for filmmakers and filmgoers in every culture. Cinephiles will immediately think of Truffaut’s autobiographical debut, The 400 Blows, or Ken Loach’s Kes, Chaplin’s The Kid, Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander and Spielberg’s ET, all represented here, in this poetic, passionate celebration of movies at their most emotionally direct, wondrous and empathetic.

Critic-turned-filmmaker Mark Cousins showed the range and breadth of his love for cinema in the 14-hour documentary The Story of Film. So, it’s not surprising that he casts his net further here, to bring in the great Iranian films from the 1990s (The White Balloon; The Boot), Japanese films from the 30s (Ozu and Shimizu); a Finnish silent, a treasure from Senegal, even two films from Albania… The clips are tantalizing and infectious, not for the movies’ obscurity but because anyone who has ever seen a child, or been one, will immediately recognize the currents of feeling coursing through these images.

Unabashedly a “first-person” filmmaker, Cousins organizes his reflections around the most humble home-movie footage of his nephew and niece, structuring his movie not on the vertical axis (history), nor on the horizontal line of genre, but on behavioral affinities and correspondences, on timidity and boisterousness, curiosity, fear and sadness, adventurousness, those attributes all kids share, in the movies and in life. In that sense we could say the Irishman has made the most purely political film of the year.

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