A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM
The world’s first movie about kids in global cinema. It’s a passionate, poetic portrait of the adventures of childhood – its surrealism, loneliness, fun, destructiveness and stroppiness – as seen through 53 great films from 25 countries.It includes classic movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Red Balloon, also dozens of masterpieces (many directed by women) that are almost unknown.It combines the child’s eye view of Mark Cousins’ acclaimed film The First Movie, with the revelations and bold movie history of his 15 hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey.
As such, A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM is an eye opener, a landmark film and a celebration of both childhood and the movies.
Why Make this Film?
I've always been interested in kids in movies. They're often less controllable and controlled than adult actors. Many children in films are, of course, projections of adult concerns but, in some of the best films about kids, and the ones where children have a degree of agency, we can see glimpses of almost natural behaviour, or of ad-libbing for the camera which is playful, fine-grained, fresh.
I love such moments in a movie when the director cuts the kid a bit of slack to be themselves, show off, have fun, get upset. Such emotions come and go in kids really quickly, almost like a movie editor can cut in an instant between different situations. Movies seem alive in such moments, unpredictable, capricious. I hope we've incorporated some of this in A Story of Children and Film.Read MORE
Timo Langer (*1978) is a Director and Editor currently living in Edinburgh, UK. He started making films in his late teens and after graduating High School he went on to educate himself away from TV screens and Hi8 Cameras. He began at The New York Film Academy producing and directing short films and working as a technical advisor. After studying photography at Bolton University he attended The German Film School and graduated as a Digital Artist (PgDip). He then went to Edinburgh College of Art where he received a Master of Design in Visual Communication (Mdes) and later on graduated from the Edinburgh Skill and Media Academy as a Master of Fine Art in Advance Film Practice (MFA).Read MORE
Adam Dawtrey & Mary BellProducers
Sometime in early 2009, I bumped into Mark Cousins on the street in Edinburgh, and asked what he was up to. He said that he and Tilda Swinton had dreamed up a new idea for a film festival that summer, which involved pulling the Screen Machine, a 38-ton mobile cinema, by hand across the Scottish Highlands, showing great movies in small villages along the way. They called this wild idea The Pilgrimage.Read MORE
Neil McGloneResearcher & Advisor
Hi, I'm Neil, I'm 41 and from Woodbridge in Suffolk.
I've been in love with films since I was a child when I used to go to my local cinema every Saturday from about the age of 8 or 9 to what was then called a "Cine-Disco" (child of the 70's!). The local "Cine-Disco" involved about an hour of music where us kids were allowed up on the main stage to dance about to the music, chat with our mates, eat lots of sweets and learn what it was all about to speak to girls! Then once the hour of music was over we all returned to the cinema seats and were treated to some cartoons, an old black and white mystery serial that would run on each week and then a main feature. The main feature would invariably be anything that was out at the time like "Star Wars" or "Superman" but more often than not, it would be something by the Children's Film Foundation. All this fun, music and film for just a weekly sub of about £2 !Read MORE
THE MAKING OF THE FILM
Mark Cousins’ Scribbles
What are these Scribbled Pages?When I was in school, I loved it when they gave us big sheets of paper to draw on. Ever afterwards, when I have something to plan or write, I start with a large sheet of paper.
So it was with A Story of Children and Film. I realised early on in my thinking that, unlike my other films, it would not be about a journey, a road movie, it would be a series of themes. So I scribbled each childhood theme – shy, secretive, performative, destructive, watching, leaving, adventurer, dreaming, grumpy, scared, loss, limited horizon, daring, class, adult, dog with a bone, alone – on the page, and drew a rough box around each. Then, each time I watched a film, if it had a good scene about one of those themes, I wrote it down in the relevant box.
I got the themes themselves from watching my nephew and niece play (if you’ve seen A Story of Children and Film you’ll have seen them – they are called Laura and Ben). I noted down the order in which I saw the themes – shyness came first, for example, and destructiveness came last. I then took a red marker pen and numbered the themes according to the order in which I saw them in the kids’ play: 1 + 2 for shyness (I can’t remember why it got two numbers!), 9 for destructiveness, etc. This, by and large, became the order in which we edited the scenes in the film.
If you look in the scribbled boxes you’ll see many more films mentioned than are in the final film. When it came to the edit, we chose what I thought were the best examples. We didn’t need more than, say, five scenes to reveal a theme. You’ll also notice that some themes don’t appear at all (Emperor’s New Clothes, for example). We didn’t edit these scenes into the film, then remove them. We realised, before we started editing, that we didn’t need them.
I find the “big shoot of paper” approach so much more useful than, say, a linear document on a computer. The former allows me to jump between themes, notice connections, etc. It’s more creative, more like drawing.
Press & News
The World Premiere in Cannes!
A Story of Children and Film had its world premiere on May 17th in the Official Selection of the Cannes Film Festival, as part of the Cannes Classics section. The screening was presented by Cannes artistic director Thierry Fremaux. The screening led to a series of great reviews, including the first 5-star review of Cannes from the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.
The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw Writes a 5 Star review to ASOCAF!
“Mark Cousins’s personal cine-essay about children on film is entirely distinctive, sometimes eccentric, always brilliant: a mosaic of clips, images and moments chosen with flair and grace, both from familiar sources and from the neglected riches of cinema around the world. Without condescension or cynicism, Cousins offers us his own humanist idealism, as refreshing as a glass of iced water.” [The full review can be accessed here.]
Charlotte Higgins Interviews Mark on Behalf of The Guardian
“In A Story of Children and Film,” Charlotte says, “[Mark] leads us on an odyssey around his imagination.” Read this enlightening interview on the Guardian website.
The Hollywood Reporter: “[ASOCAF] produces shards of insights and impressions in a way that, like the best archival works, provide inspiration for further research and discovery.”
“Throughout, the film is rich in [its cinematic] finds, works seldom seen or discussed but, in many cases, just as impressive as the famous examples he samples,” writes the legendary Todd McCarthy in his Cannes review of the film. Read the complete review here.
Variety: “An idiosyncratically personal yet captivating companion piece to ‘The Story of Film.’”
A full review of the film, written by Peter Debruge, appeared on Variety during the Cannes Film Festival. Read it in the Variety’s website.
RogerEbert.com: “The latest documentary by the movie-crazy genius of applied cinephilia.”
The movie is as self-indulgent as it is brilliant. I happen to be a fan of Cousins’s way of looking at the movies and registering their minute shifts of style…A Story of Children and Film makes us aware of how cinema has portrayed young faces looking at the world and reflecting upon its wonders and monstrosities alike…I have nothing but admiration for Cousins and hope he will follow this “Story” with many more to come. [read Michał Oleszczyk's full Cannes report at RogerEbert.com.]
EYES IN: “Film Director Cousins Is Celebrating a Masterpiece.”
Vivian Van Dijk writes: “The screening of A Story of Children and Film left me with a portfolio of knowledge about not only the history of children in film, but also about many learning effects of film itself. Film director Mark Cousins has made with this film a blueprint for many film generations to come. This is a must-see for anybody who is attending this Cannes Film Festival. Whether you are a film student or a successful film director already or just a film lover, Mark Cousins knows how to point you to the key ingredients that make children shine in film and also make their roles and behavior in film transparent.” Read the full lovely review + an interview with Mark by Tarik Khaldi here.
Scotsman: “Cousins examines the role of children in cinema, offering his own unique take along the way.”
Read Jonathan Melville’s Three Good Reasons to Enjoy Cannes here.
Another Cannes Review by ScreenDaily
“An engaging, heartfelt, thoughtful and occasionally insightful delve into how childhood and children haver influenced and inspired great cinema through the decades, Mark Cousins’ accessible and watchable documentary confirms what has long been suspected…that the many aspects of childhood bring out the best in some of the world’s greatest film-makers.” — Mark Adams.
Read the review here.
Mark in Q&A with Film4.com editor Catherine Bray
“Irish filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins recently premiered his new film A Story Of Children And Film in the Cannes Classics strand at the 66th Cannes Film Festival. A documentary very much in the vein of Mark’s 15 hour epic series The Story Of Film, this feature is a relatively compact 101 minutes which should be absolutely up the street of everyone who enjoyed The Story Of Film. Mark used footage he’d shot of his nephew and niece at play to explore the different aspects of childhood in film around the world and throughout the history of film. Here, he shares with Film4.com editor Catherine Bray the story of how the project came about, and reflects on his own formative film experience.” READ MORE
Karlovy Vary IFF to screen ASOCAF
“One of the greatest cinephiles among filmmakers, [Mark Cousins] has created a pioneering and emotionally compelling composition with the help of 53 clips.” — Karlovy Vary IFF
We are delighted to announce that A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM is having its third major festival screening (after Cannes and the upcoming edition of Edinburgh IFF) at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2013 on June 29th at 4pm in Congress Hall.
“Childhood is the subject of Cousins’ exciting new journey through the history of film, as well as the themes connected to it – loneliness, playfulness, adventure, and mystery,” reads the brochure of one the most exciting film festivals in the world.
Also a second screening is scheduled by Kalovy Vary for the Small Hall on July 5 at 12:30.
EIFF preview in the Scotsman includes ASOCAF among its list of recommended films.
“Following up his magnificent documentary The Story of Film and his playfully indulgent What Is This Film Called Love?, Mark Cousins’ latest meditation on cinema looks at its connection to childhood. Another typically thoughtful trawl through the history of film seems likely.” [More here]
All Children Are Artists
With just five days left to the UK premiere of A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM at at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, Mark has given a lengthy interview to the Scotsman, discussing Margaret O’Brien’s brilliant clumsiness, ASOCAF’s enthusiastic reception in Cannes, unsentimental depiction of children in Iranian cinema, as well as Picasso and filmmaking in the digital age.
Andrew Eaton-Lewis whose interview with Mark has touched on many aspects of childhood and cinema calls the film “a poetic, often hypnotic meditation on childhood.”
Full interview is now online here.
A round-up of the EIFF reviews:
Ross Miller, Thoughts on Film: “A charming and observant slice of cinematic nostalgia…[Mark Cousins'] conviction and passion are palpable while his excitement and enthusiasm for art of form – which he describes as the one which has looked at kids more than any other – bleeds out of the screen. For any cinephile it would be tough to watch this film and not feel a sense of joy…an intimate lyrical essay on the unique way cinema can showcase childhood.”
Chris Buckle, The Skinny: “This side-odyssey is a stimulating and perspective-broadening experience.”
Michael Clancy, The Artifice: “[Cousins'] research is in depth, his observations poignant. It makes for an excellent companion piece to his early opus, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, making Cousins one of the most astute and thoughtful filmmakers working today.”
Teddy Jamieson, Herald Scotland: “[Cousins] sees the world in cinema (and in world cinema) and then wants you to see it too…But really the thrill of A Story Of Children And Film is the way it makes us pay attention to stuff we might ignore.”
Euan Andrews, EdinburghGuide: “Cousins strings his thesis together with ease, a particularly sublime transition displaying how adults are seen through childish eyes cutting from an old Tom and Jerry cartoon to Lynne Ramsay’s ‘Gasman’.”
MyFilm.Blogspot.com: “This is a poem about children and about childhood./This film is poetry in motion./This film is, like all great poetry, pure emotion.”
Emma Thrower, The Hollywood News: “Transcendent and essential, Mark Cousins’ A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM is a glorious celebration of children on celluloid.”
Andrew R. Hill, Blasted: “We’re spellbound by this film…entirely apposite given its subject; we marvel with childlike wonder at both children in cinema and at cinema itself.”
Siobhan Callas, Britflicks: “it’s full of thought provoking observations and snippets from films you may have never seen, but will now probably want to!”
Gareth Negus, blogging for MOSTLYFILM, has picked the film as one of his ten best of the EIFF, arguing that “I have a simple test when it comes to books or documentaries about film: they should tell me about films I had never previously heard of, and make me want to see them. Cousins’ work consistently does this.”
Dial M For Movies: “The wealth of knowledge and films shown, places Cousins near the top of the documentary genre.”
Steven Neish, HEY U GUYS.CO.UK!: ”A Story Of Children And Film is a true delight.”
Check pictures of the Q&A, right after the premiere of the film in Edinburgh here. On stage are Mark, Laura, Ben and Pasquale Iannone.
ASOCAF gets its North American premiere at Toronto IFF
The Toronto International Film Festival has announced the line up of its 2013 edition. Great news is that A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM is going to have its North American premiere during this much anticipated festival of film lovers and international cinema aficionados.
ASOCAF is selected for the TIFF DOCS sections which is known for showing the best non-fiction cinema from around the world.
Two Riversides Film and Art Festival in Poland to screen ASOCAF.
“A Story” Goes to Kosovo
Dokufest is an International Documentary and Short Film Festival that is held every year during August in Prizren, Kosovo. A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM, an official selection of the festival, will be shown there on 21, August at 16:00, Kino Europa Pllato. More information here.
The Cambridge Film Festival has announced ASOCAF among the films to be shown in the 33rd edition of the festival. More information on their website.
Mark has returned to his favorite film festival, Telluride in Colorado (celebrating its 40th anniversary), showing both ASOCAF and his new feature Here Be Dragons.
In the meantime, after screening of ASOCAF on the second day of the festival, a blogger from Telluride has written a terrific review, saying ”in addition to providing subjective insights about the nature of childhood, Mr. Cousin’s commentary points out technical details filmmakers have used to make a point, to create a mood, to elicit a psychological response from the viewer. Without pedantry, he speaks like a professor in love with his discipline, who wants the viewer to share his enthusiasm. In this he succeeds, and one leaves A Story of Children in Film more acutely aware of one’s own childhood, of the preciousness of youthful candor and spontaneity, and of cinema as an artful examiner of life. What a way to start a Telluride!”
The Australian premiere of ASOCAF at the Adelaide Film Festival in October. We are thrilled to hear ASOCAF is selected as the festival closer!
A review from the Adelaide screening can be read here.
ASOCAF is in the list of five must-see recent films in the De Filmkrant website, a favorite Dutch film journal.
The UK cinema release planned for spring 2014
The ScreenDaily has published an exclusive article, breaking the exciting news of Dogwoof acquiring the rights to ASOCAF for its UK theatrical screening and DVD release.
The deal was brokered by Oli Harbottle, head of Distribution for Dogwoof, with Adam Dawtrey who has produced the film.
Read the story here.
More Reviews From Toronto IFF 2013:
Many more film writers, cinephiles and bloggers from north America have reflected on ASOCAF after its Telluride and Toronto screenings. Here you can access some of them:
- Alex Ramon, Popmatters: “Cousins’s mellifluous musings merge wry humour with poetic intensity.”
- Ryan McNeil, The Matinee: “[Scenes in the film] are more than just wonderful pieces of filmmaking, they are portraits of who children are…not how they have been told to act.”
- David Acacia, International cinephile society: “The parallel between the antics of children and the development of film as an art form is striking.”
- Liam Lacey, The Globe and Mail: “The films’ clips are linked, not only by the categories but by visual motifs:The Yellow Balloon in bombed-out London, The Red Balloon in mid-fifties Paris, The White Balloon in modern Iran.”
- Jordan M. Smith, IonCinema: “A Story of Children and Film takes us around the globe and through time to highlight cinematic greatness with the same brilliantly insightful wit, but this time Cousins looks for qualities sui generis to adolescence. Never before has his cinema so much resembled his written work. His vocational travels, written travails and cinematic inspiration seem to have coalesce in perfect harmony, forging a collage of intimately perceived and elegantly processed images that burn with a fire unique to the malleable and genuine age of youth.”
Video Interview with Mark about, among other things, ASOCAF
Fandor’s Keyframe has published a video interview with Mark which can be viewed here.
ASOCAF in Brazil
For its South American premiere, the film will be shown in the city of Rio de Janeiro. More info here.
Mark interviewed by SBS
The lengthy interview which covers many different subjects on and around childhood is online here.
Other Recent Festival Screenings
Vancouver International Film Festival in Canada.
Doku Arts in Berlin.
Det Danske Filminstitut in Copenhagen.
Another Aussie Festival
The Brisbane International Film Festival is the second film fest in Australia which has picked ASOCAF for its new edition in November. The film’s page on the festival website can be accessed here.
Take One on ASOCAF
Amanda Randall has reviewed the film for Take One.
Dear Old Stockholm
A Story of Children and Film will play http://t.co/Yphocjab9C Jag kommer att vara där. mycket glad.
— mark cousins (@markcousinsfilm) October 22, 2013
Films in the Story
400 BlowsFrançois Truffaut, 1959, France
An Angel at My TableJane Campion, 1990, Australia
Big BusinessJames W. Horne & Leo McCarey, 1929, US
The Essay Film
by Mark Cousins
In the last two years I have made three essay films – What is This Film Called Love?, A Story of Children and Film, and Here be Dragons. In the next year, I will make two more – I am Belfast and Stockholm My Love.
In making these, and watching many more – by Anand Patwardhan and Agnes Varda, for example – and after reading Philip Lopate’s book on the essay, I started to make a mental list of the elements of, and the principles behind, essay films. This list is a kind of manifesto.
A fiction film is a bubble. An essay film bursts it.
An essay film takes an idea for a walk.
Essay films are visual thinking.
Essay films reverse film production: the images come first, the script, last.
Filming an essay is gathering, like a carpenter gathers wood.
A fiction film is a car, an essay film is a bike; it can nip up an alleyway, you can feel the wind in its hair.
A road movie has outer movement, an essay film has inner movement.
An essay film is the opposite of fly on the wall.
An essay film can go anywhere, and should.
Two essay films should be made every year. Why? Because, after F for Fake, Orson Welles said this to Henry Jaglom during lunch at Ma Maison: “I could have made an essay film – two of ‘em a year, you see. On different subjects. Various variations of that form.”
Commentary is to the essay film, what dance is to the musical.
All essay films would be improved by a clip of Dietrich (see Marcel Ophuls).
An essay film cannot create the atmosphere of Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard;
A fiction film cannot explain that atmosphere.
Even Hollywood makes essay films – look at DW Griffith’s Intolerance.
Essay films are what Astruc dreamt of.
Digital had made Astruc’s dream come true.
Translating the Moon
This note is written by Andrew Revolta, the translator for the Chinese edition of A Story of Children and Film.
During my summer internship at UCCA (Ullens Center for Contemporary Art) in Beijing, I was fortunate enough to work on the translation of the subtitles for ‘A Story of Children and Film,’ in preparation for its Asian première. As a linguist in training, this was quite a daunting task, but with the help of some native, Chinese speaking friends, I was able to produce the final document. Throughout the process of translation, there are several ways in which you can chose to translate a word – one of these situations came about when translating the lines of Palle, from Astrid Henning-Jensen’s 1949 film ‘Palle Alone in the World.’ During the clip selected for A Story of Children and Film, Palle arrives at the moon and forlornly asks, ‘Where is the Man in the Moon?’ This simple sentence, which is instantly understandable to anyone whose mother tongue is English, could simply be translated thus yueqiushang de nanrenzainali? (月球上的男人在哪里？). However, whilst this sentence is understandable to a Chinese speaking audience, a much better translation, pointed out to me by my friend Huang Shiyun, is to translate from a cultural perspective.
Whilst the Man in the Moon as a concept is understood by a Chinese audience, the magical meaning of the story behind it is lost. In China, they instead talk of another being that lives on the moon – namely Chang’e (嫦娥) seen above right.
The tale of Chang’e revolves around her marriage to Houyi, both of whom were immortals living in Heaven. In Ancient times, the Jade Emperor’s ten sons turned into stars and scorched the Earth. Houyi, a famed archer attempted to solve this by using his archery skills to shoot down nine of the ten stars, leaving the one that we today call the Sun. However the Emperor was very upset by the killing of nine of his sons and as a punishment, banished the couple from Heaven to live as mere mortals. Houyi searched for the pill of immortality so that his wife would be immortal and thus, be happy again. He obtained the pill, brought it home and warned Chang’e not to take it out of its box. He knew that she only needed to take half of it, but Chang’e, curious about the contents of the box, stole a glance, and when Houyi returned, she took the whole pill. The overdose caused her to float into the sky, and whilst Houyi wished to bring her back, he couldn’t bring himself to fire his arrows at her. As a result, Chang’e floated until she came to land on the moon, where she remains along with the Jade Rabbit.
This fascinating fairy-tale was completely new knowledge to me, and just one of many examples of the cultural underpinnings that are a fundamental part of every language. Not only did this example provide me with an alternative story of life on the moon, but it also inspired me to take greater care in considering the cultural assumptions behind our language, especially when translating.
Returning to the case of Palle, in the Chinese subtitles for the film, upon arriving at the moon he now asks ‘Where is Chang’e?’ Chang’ezai nail? (嫦娥在哪里？) A line which struck a chord with the audience and I hope, made Palle’s experience, far more meaningful and thus memorable to those who were relying on the subtitles.
*Images from Wikipedia