A Story of Children and Film (3 stars)

A Story of Children and Film

Mark Cousins’ film essay/poem is an impassioned look at childhood in cinema

A fervent supporter of world cinema, Mark Cousins’ new documentary provides some examples of the way childhood has been captured by filmmakers around the globe in the hundred years since cinema’s birth. Focusing on filmmakers from Francois Truffaut to Jafar Panahi and Lynne Ramsay to Steven Spielberg, Cousins catalogues clips from those who have captured ‘children as they really are, rather than how adults see them’.

Unfortunately, Cousins’ narration at times robs the footage of some of its power, with its detailed analysis reducing the proffered clips from joyous expressions of childhood to a dry assemblage of lighting, sound and mise-en-scene. The film also suffers from a disjointed narrative framework: after a largely irrelevant introduction concerning Van Gogh, Cousins uses a home movie of his niece and nephew to lead into various children-on-film chapters (shyness, performance, destructive impulses), but once he’s exhausted this footage and finds himself with further points to make, he makes a sojourn to the Highlands where he intersperses his musings on film with landscape shots – the equivalent of an otherwise eloquent and learned speaker slipping holiday snaps into his presentation.

Despite these weaknesses there’s no denying the well-curated source material: all the discussion of framing and angle in the world can’t detract from Margaret O’Brien’s exuberant performance in Meet Me in St Louis, or the charismatic Kurdish kids from Cousins’ own The First Movie. At the very least, you’ll walk away from A Story of Children and Film with an additional 50 or so movies to add to your watch list.

Limited release from Fri 4 Apr.

A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM Trailer | Festival 2013

A Story of Children and Film

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 46min
  • PG
  • Directed by: Mark Cousins
  • Written by: Mark Cousins
  • UK release: 4 April 2014

Cousins' new film explores the way children are portrayed on film, as depicted by a selection of 53 films from around the world.