With two film essays and the fragments of a work in progress screened, the 14th Belfast film festival hosted a bumper crop of film from home-grown director Mark Cousins.
Mark introduces his film with a picture of his six year old self, telling us that this is the boy that fell in love with film in the dark of the Ritz cinema that once stood on Great Victoria Street.
He describes his childhood experience of film as “a magic carpet ride,” to sit as we are now, in rows of seats all angled up at the same huge screen, was to be a child “sitting in winter looking at summer”. As Cousin puts it “an unraveling of self”. He describes the wide eyed wonder and euphoria he felt, in the steady glow of the screen, in order to assimilate us to how he first watched, and still watches film. This is important. Mark wants us to remember being children and to try to again be open and emotional. Because though we all had a childhood, we are children no more and we are about to watch a film that seeks to explore what cinema tells us about childhood, and what childhood tells us about cinema.
Then to show us he’s serious he pulls out a monkey glove, it’s furry and realistic, he explains that he sought the advise of his nephew Ben, on how to introduce the film. “The most important thing,” he tells us on Ben’s behalf, “is to dress as a monkey.” The audience is amused, he goes on to tell us that the beauty of a child’s imagination is in its lack of censorship, quoting Picasso “Every child is an artist. The Problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up”.
The chemistry of Cousin’s film, the behaviors of children; their shyness, stroppiness, adventuressness, their violence, was conceived while filming his niece and nephew playing. The short scene he captured on his camera one morning before breakfast, while he, Sarah and Ben were still in their pyjamas, demonstrated the spectrum of these behaviours. It dawned on Cousins that this could be a way of watching and organizing films that depict childhood.
Cousins went on to show us the screenplay he worked from, composed on a massive sheet of paper, folded into eighths, which he tells us took him just an hour to jot down. He found this method of working liberating, and explains that if the audience enjoys the film, that this large piece of scribbled paper is why.
Finally, he encouraged the audience to watch the film with their child-self in mind, to regress and enjoy.
Mark Cousins was kind enough to chat to us about all three of his projects appearing in the festival this year:
Here is the full Intro to A Story of Children and Film:
For more videos with directors, actors and guests of the festival visit our youtube page: