Anyone familiar with filmmaker Mark Cousins should be well aware of his passion for cinema. He has been feeding his appetite for it for years and recently he finally gorged on a huge meal with his massive project The Story of Film: An Odyssey, a 15 part series that brilliantly looked at how film has evolved over the years and around the world.
A Story of Children and Film, a charming and observant slice of cinematic nostalgia, feels almost like the missing chapter from that Odyssey. His aim here is to look at how children have been portrayed in movies over the years, in everything from mainstream American Hollywood to Europe, South America, Africa and beyond.
Cousins has decided to frame the film’s darting exploration around an everyday scene with his excitable little niece and nephew, playing with their toys on the floor. His distinct voiceover guides us through this journey of comparison and insight, telling us how them playing with an elaborately built toy in the living room is like Luis Buñuel’s Los Olvidados or Steven Spielberg’s E.T. He refers to the latter in full as The Extra Terrestrial – every film is on a level playing field here.
And we believe him when he says they’re connected in some way, whether in composition of framing or themes in which they tackle. His 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.
A Story of Children and Film is another deft and inspiring slice of cinematic history and analysis from Cousins, a man so knowledgable about film that he’d put most other people to shame. It’s an intimate lyrical essay on the unique way cinema can showcase childhood made clear through a mishmash of clips, images and accute observations. I’d encourage anyone who hasn’t seen his Story of Film epic to seek it out and this serves both as a delightful appetiser for that and a nourishing standalone documentary in its own right.