Editor’s Notes: The following review is a continuation of Matthew Blevins’ Subversive Saturdays series. A Story of Children and Film is now out in limited theatrical release.
Lingering shots embrace the unassuming beauty of desert landscapes as we hear about the dreams of Iraqi children from Goptapa, a Kurdish village that has seen its share of trouble as it was gassed in the 80s. Those old enough to remember will be forever afflicted by the social injustices carried out on their land. Mark Cousins has seen his share of troubles, as a man born into Northern Ireland during times of social conflict he took solace in cinemas as secret places for dreamers to fantasize. He believes in the power of cinema as a magical instrument that is an essential part of life for dreamers all over the world. He brought his “magic lantern” show to Sarajevo in the early 90s and helped establish an underground cinema during times of great tumult. He would take his magic lantern show on the road once again to the village of Goptapa in an experiment in the power of cinema and the beautiful dreamers that dare to bring it to corners of the world that the media falsely portrays as decimated and bereft of imagination and idealism.
He brought his “magic lantern” show to Sarajevo in the early 90s and helped establish an underground cinema during times of great tumult.
He speaks in a dreamlike cadence that offers significance to each spoken word as he shows us the world through his childlike eyes. Unburdened by the prejudices of the “grown-up” world he sees the magic in every visage that he captures with his HD Flip camera. Car bombs have created ugliness in the midst of the beauty of the land, forcing the dreamer awaken long enough to confront uncomfortable bits of reality. He sees the lands of Goptapa as possessing an inherently cinematic quality and we are shown images filled with brilliant shades of green, offering a rare view of lands and people ignored by Western eyes, teeming with life and dreamers in the middle of a desert. The genocidal attacks of the Anfal from 1986 to 1989 still weighs heavily on the minds of everyone, including the children who weren’t old enough to experience the chemical rain directly but whose thoughts and dreams will forever be tainted by the sadistic whims of genocidal maniacs. The adults carry a sadness in their eyes that can never be lifted as they have lost children and livelihoods from these actions. The land itself carries that same burden, the air thick with the bad memories that have infused themselves permanently with the soil and souls of those who work it. Mark shares balloons with the children of the village, and as those balloons are carried upon the leaden air the children experience elation never achieved by Pascal in Le ballon rogue in 1956. The children lose themselves to the wonderment of play in the hazy sunsets of Goptapa and experience something brand new.
Mark loses all sense of time as he has entered a new world. Though the landscape may be alien and filled with both heartbreak and wonderment, he finds kindred spirits in the children that share their dreams with kind eyes and open spirits. Mark is going to give cameras to these children to see what dream realities they live in, but first he works on setting up his magic lantern temple to share the cinematic escape that impassioned him to the art of cinema. Multicolored sheets billow in the desert breeze and one can sense the elation in the air as both children and adults alike join for the communal experience of cinema. The soundtrack builds with emotion as Mark carries out his magical feat and all faces are locked onto his makeshift scrim as he screens films from all around the world from the Danish film Palle Alone in the World, France’s Le ballon rogue, East Germany’s The Singing Ringing Tree, Iran’s The Boot, and finally Hollywood’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The air becomes electric as the imaginations of villagers both young and old are incited by the strange and potent alchemy of cinema for the very first time in their lives.
With imaginations ablaze from the gift that Mark has brought to their village, the children are asked what they might film if given the opportunity. Some act appropriately childish, but others have more poetic dreams that they are afraid to vocalize.
With imaginations ablaze from the gift that Mark has brought to their village, the children are asked what they might film if given the opportunity. Some act appropriately childish, but others have more poetic dreams that they are afraid to vocalize. Fortunately cinema is its own language and they are allowed to speak with imaginative and contemplative voices as they learn this new language that has been taught to them for the first time. They capture well known fables as they begin to see the animals in their village with new eyes, and they capture heartrending soliloquies on the secret power of mud. They see the world with innocent and inspired eyes in a land that the rest of the world had written off as bereft of kind hearted dreamers.
In his search for kindred spirits and through his passionate desire to share the magic of cinema with every forgotten realm of the world, Mark challenges preconceived notions perpetuated by a disengaged media and shows us that humanity exists in unmitigated glory wherever huddled masses of our kind reside. His attempts would be thwarted multiple times, but his passion and dreamer’s soul would not allow him to acquiesce to the grown-ups that try to stop us from achieving our dreams with their casual policies and mandated savagery. With steadfast determinism he brought his passionate obsessions to the desert, and through his efforts he brought magic and beauty to forgotten corners of the world to remind us that the dreamer knows no national borders and that imagination is essential to the human condition and cannot be removed, despite the best efforts of tyrants and the false propagations of a disinterested international media.
[notification type=”star”]90/100 ~ AMAZING. In his search for kindred spirits and through his passionate desire to share the magic of cinema with every forgotten realm of the world, Mark challenges preconceived notions perpetuated by a disengaged media and shows us that humanity exists in unmitigated glory wherever huddled masses of our kind reside.[/notification]