The Kids Are Alright
by Mark Cousins
Aug 30, 2013 | 5169 views | 0 0 comments | 477 477 recommendations | email to a friend | print
I’ve always been interested in kids in movies. They’re often less controllable and controlled than adult actors. Many children in films are, of course, projections of adult concerns, but—in some of the best films about kids, and the ones where children have a degree of agency—we can see glimpses of almost natural behavior, or of ad-libbing for the camera that is playful, fine-grained, fresh.

I love such moments in a movie, when the director cuts kids a bit of slack to be themselves, show off, have fun, get upset. Such emotions come and go in kids really quickly. Movies seem alive in such moments, unpredictable, capricious. I hope we’ve incorporated some of this in A Story of Children and Film.

The film looks at 53 films, from 25 countries. It isn’t a chronological history and certainly doesn’t try to cover all the areas of children in film. It isn’t really a history film at all. It’s more a portrait of childhood as seen through the movies. The movie clips are the palette of colors we use to paint the picture. I realized that I had to find a way of making it doable in just 100 minutes or so. I had to find a point of view, a frame to contain what could have been an unwieldy subject.

Then I remembered a 12-minute shot I’d done of my niece and nephew, Laura and Ben Moreton, playing in my flat. As I filmed, I noticed that they went from shy to grumpy to performative to destructive, all in a short time. I recognized such fleeting moods in my own life and in the Kurdish kids I’d filmed in Iraq. The 12-minute shot could be my frame. My camera stayed wide during it; I didn’t move it or give Laura and Ben any instructions whatsoever. I just watched.

This, then, would be our structure: When Laura is shy, I do a mini-tour of shyness in kids in film; when Ben is destructive, I do a tour of destructiveness in kids in cinema. The order in which my niece and nephew showed their emotions is the order in which we see them in the film.

I know people will ask me whom this film is for. My answer is that it is for anyone of about 10 or over who likes films. I hope that they, young and old, will recognize themselves or kids they know in it. In the film I say that in little things (faces, a field, a rock pool, a 12-minute shot of kids), we can see a lot. I hope that in this little film, we see a lot about childhood and about the movies.

A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM | England, 2013, 104m | Director/writer: Mark Cousins
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