Wednesday, 17 February 2010


In 2009, filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins travelled to Goptapa, a tiny village in Iraqi Kurdistan which is sat at the crux of one of the twentieth century’s best-known conflicts. His role here was not only to record the beauty of the area through his own lens, but to give voice to the previously voiceless by donating high-definition cameras to the children in the area. Cousins invites his subjects to film whatever they wish, arranging projections of diverse films (Chakmeh, The Singing Ringing Tree, E.T.) to inspire them in their projects. The results are endearing, comical, even surprising – some of the children choose to film their parents or local elders, interviewing them about the horrific chemical attack on Goptapa in 1988. One boy, Mohammed, chooses to film his best friend, narrating his thoughts while he plays in the mud.

Cousins, born and raised in war-torn Belfast, is clearly speaking to his own background with this experiment, but The First Movie is above all about the children of the village. Rather than narrating over them, Cousins lets the films speak for themselves, only lending his voice to the sequences he shot himself to contextualise the documentary. In the film, Cousins notes David Lynch as an inspiration, and some of his sequences show an unacknowledged disquiet, particularly one showing a cow wandering through the streets at night. His love of cinema also percolates through the film, and it’s such a rush of emotion to see children so enraptured by The Red Balloon.

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