JDIFF: 'The First Movie' – Magic Realist Documentary


WRI/DIR/DOP: Mark Cousins  • PRO: Gill Parry • ED: Timo Langer • Sound: Brent Calkin

IFI, Eustace Street, Sunday February 20th 6:30pm

‘The First Movie’ is an altogether different type of documentary to ‘Barbaric Genius’. In the Q&A chaired by documentary filmmaker Ken Wardrop, writer/director Mark Cousins talked about his love of all types of documentary be they visual, poetic, or campaign type. This was labelled as a magic realist documentary, with very little camera movement and was influenced by the films of Humphrey Jenning’s amongst others.

It was shot in Kurdistan, Iraq, though the word ‘Iraq’ is not mentioned until close to the end of the film. A choice Cousins made as the word ‘Iraq’ conjurs up so many images that he wanted to show the village of Goptapa with out these preconceived ideas.

It is a visually stunning piece, at times surreal and philisophical, clearly influenced by his hero David Lynch and with an arresting use of scared music.

The crew consisted of Cousins, who was writer, director and DOP with Brent Calkin his Canadian sound recordist and Timo Langer another filmmaker who edited. Gill Parry his producer was there for about half the shoot. He stressed the importance of having a good local translator and this small crew, at their lawyers insistance, had four security guards at all times.

The documentary focuses on the children of this small village, and Cousins interviews and films them before deciding to give small cameras to three of them and then inviting them to go off and make their own films. One of the few adults interviewed on camera was not filmed by Cousins himself but by one of the children taking part. This eldery woman movingly described the gassing of the town by unnamed forces, as we know under Saddam’s orders, and the huge number of deaths it caused.

Similar to Ron Cooney, the insirational music teacher in ‘Ballymun Lullaby’, Cousins wants to introduce his love of film to the children and he organises screenings of little known childrens films plus ‘E.T.’ to the delight of the kids. At the Q&A Cousins remarked that Brent, the sound recordist, was moved to tears while recording the cheers of the delight of the children at the big screen.

The parallels with Ron Cooney continue as all proceeds are going to provide musical equipment for the music teacher in the village who currently does not have any instruments. It is 18 months since he finished shooing and although it is very expensive to get there, Cousins intends to return soon to see what effect music and film have had on these budding filmmakers.

Gordon Gaffney

‘Barbaric Genius’ report


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