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