Mark Cousins: The First Film

”Look at this landscape, it makes you want to film it”, he says, Mark Cousins, film historian and writer and with ”The First Film” also a brilliant essayistic filmmaker. With his wonderful Scottish accent, or is it Northern Irish, that is where he comes from, a Belfast boy he calls himself, he takes the audience on a journey to Kurdistan in Iraq, to Goptopa, where atrocities happened in the 80’es, but this is not what makes Cousins go there, no, he wants to meet children, challenge their imagination and have them express themselves. Verbally and through small cameras that he brought along.

Cousins, his text (hello film teachers, this is how a voice-off text should be) and his visual embracement of a beautiful, yet haunted place on earth, is enjoyable to watch and also to listen to, as Cousins also dares to put on music that comes from the classical repertory and not from the more obvious, and because of that maybe kliché-filled local Kurdish. He is constantly fighting the clichès, he wants to take this film – this hymn to childhood and imagination and to the power of film – as far away as possible from what we normally associate when the name of the country is mentioned.

”There is magic everywhere”, Cousins says and proves with his camera. We meet the children, we see them watch films that the film crew brought along, we see the clips they made, all these wonderful wee boys and girls from Goptopa. It is one long hug with pauses in text and dialogue, where you are invited to enjoy.

Scotland, 76 mins. Producer Gil Parry, 2009

Seen in Belgrade at Magnificent7, clips from the film are available online.

Share your love
Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

Articles: 3872