Mark Cousins (film critic)

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Mark Cousins (born 3 May 1965) is a director and occasional presenter/critic on film.[1] A prolific producer and director, he is best known for his 15-hour 2011 documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey.


Cousins interviewed famous filmmakers such as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Roman Polanski in the TV series Scene by Scene.

In 2009, Cousins and actress/director Tilda Swinton created a project where they mounted a 33.5-tonne portable cinema on a large truck and hauled it manually through the Scottish Highlands. The result was a traveling independent film festival which was featured prominently in a documentary called Cinema is Everywhere. The festival was repeated again in 2011.[2][3][4]

His 2011 film The Story of Film: An Odyssey[5][6] was broadcast as 15 one-hour television episodes[7] on More4,[5] and later, featured at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[8] In September 2013, it began to be shown on Turner Classic Movies.[9]

After the massive undertaking of The Story of Film, Cousins's next project was an intentionally small-scale work: What Is This Film Called Love? is a self-photographed travel diary of his three-day walk around Mexico City, in which he carries on an imagined conversation with a photo of Sergei Eisenstein.[10] Another low-budget, quickly produced documentary, Here Be Dragons, covers a short film-watching trip he made to Albania.[11] 6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia is structured around an imagined letter from Cousins to the author D. H. Lawrence, who wrote about a 1921 visit to Sardinia.[12] Life May Be is a collaboration with Iranian director and actor Mania Akbari, again making use of Cousins's familiar structural devices of letters, travel imagery, and voiceover commentary.[13]

A more ambitious and well-received work, A Story of Children and Film, began with some footage he shot of his niece and nephew at play, and grew into a documentary about the representation of children in cinema.[14][15][16][17][18]

Cousins subsequently produced I Am Belfast, in which the city is personified by a 10,000-year-old woman. Portions of the film in progress, with a score by Belfast composer David Holmes were screened at the 2014 Belfast Film Festival.[19] He is also working on a three-hour addendum to The Story of Film, on the subject of documentaries, entitled Dear John Grierson.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he attended St Louis Grammar School, Ballymena. He is a graduate of the University of Stirling in Scotland, where he studied film, media, and art.[19][21][22] Since 1984 he has been in a longterm personal relationship with Gill Moreton, a psychologist, whom he met at Stirling; they live in Edinburgh.[23][24]


  • The First Movie (director, 2009)
  • The Story of Film: An Odyssey (director and presenter, 2011)
  • What Is This Film Called... Love? (director, 2012)
  • A Story of Children and Film (director, writer, 2013)
  • Here Be Dragons (director, writer, 2013)
  • 6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia (director, writer, 2014)
  • Life May Be (co-director, co-writer, with Mania Akbari, 2014)
  • Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise (director, 2015)[25]
  • I Am Belfast (director, writer, 2015)


  1. ^ Russell, Ken (18 December 2009). "The First Movie: peace through a child's eye". The Times. Retrieved 19 October 2010. 
  2. ^ Details
  3. ^ "Our gal Tilda and her magical perambulating film festival" August 5, 2009, Sun Times
  4. ^ "Entertainment | Actress Swinton hauls cinema". BBC News. 2009-08-04. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  5. ^ a b Staff (2012). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey". Channel 4. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  6. ^ Scott, A. O. (January 31, 2012). "Your Film of Films: A Sweeping History of an Art". NYTimes. Retrieved January 31, 2012. 
  7. ^ Staff (2012). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Episodes". Channel 4. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  8. ^ Cousins, Mark (2011). "The Story of Film: An Odyssey - Real To Reel". Toronto International Film Festival. Retrieved February 5, 2012. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Guy Lodge, "Review: ‘What Is This Film Called Love?’", Variety, 2 July 2012. ("Sprite-like Irish film critic, historian and documaker Mark Cousins has done many commendable things to honor the medium he loves so deeply -- notably last year's "The Story of Film" -- but his fatuous vanity project "What Is This Film Called Love?" is not among them."
  11. ^ Stephen Dalton, "Here Be Dragons: London Review", Hollywood Reporter, 17 October 2013. ("Shot last year during a short working holiday in Albania, this free-associating documentary initially promises to illuminate a mysterious Balkan backwater rarely seen on screen. Instead, it reveals rather too much about its author, his brainy reading habits, his airline meals, and his random thoughts on culture and politics.")
  12. ^ Brian Moylan, "Sundance 2015 review: 6 Desires: DH Lawrence and Sardinia – Mark Cousins is lost somewhere over The Rainbow", The Guardian, 24 January 2015.
  13. ^ Andrew Pulver, " Life May Be: Edinburgh 2014 review – intensely felt passion with a sense of self-advertisement. Mark Cousins' latest essay film is a two-way love letter to Iranian artist-film-maker Mania Akbari, with intriguing results." The Guardian, 21 June 2014.
  14. ^ Peter Bradshaw, "Cannes 2013: A Story of Children and Film – review", The Guardian, 4 April 2013. (". . . one of the most beguiling events at Cannes, appropriately presented in the Cannes Classics section. Mark Cousins's personal cine-essay about children on film is entirely distinctive, sometimes eccentric, always brilliant: a mosaic of clips, images and moments chosen with flair and grace, both from familiar sources and from the neglected riches of cinema around the world.")
  15. ^ Peter DeBruge, "Cannes Film Review: 'A Story of Children and Film', Variety, 18 May 2013.
  16. ^ Tim Robey, "A Story of Children and Film, review: A vivid history of children in front of the camera", The Daily Telegraph, 3 April 2014. ("Something about Mark Cousins’s feyly magisterial presenting style fits the material like a glove in his new documentary – it may be the best thing he’s ever done."
  17. ^ Mark Kermode, " A Story of Children and Film review – Mark Cousins's 'spine-tingling' visual essay" Mark Cousins's film exploring childhood and film is dazzling in its breadth and intelligence", The Guardian, 5 April 2014. ("A hugely impressive work by a uniquely talented storyteller.")
  18. ^ Mark Cousins, " Fountain of youth: how a film-maker recaptured his passion for the craft. Burned out after making the epic documentary The Story of Film, Mark Cousins describes how filming kids having fun helped him find his way back – and create a moving portrait of childhood." The Guardian, 2 April 2014.
  19. ^ a b Una Brankin, "Mark Cousins: A personal odyssey. As he brings his new film to Belfast, director and critic Mark Cousins tells Una Brankin how he's learning to love his home city once more." Belfast Telegraph, 1 April 2014.
  20. ^ Mark Cousins, "Dear John Grierson: A Postscript to The Story of Film (rough cut). All aboard the good train cinephilia, as Mark Cousins conducts us to lesser-visited stations around the documentary globe." Sight & Sound, 14 August 2014.
  21. ^ Henry Hepburn, "Mark Cousins", TESS, 21 September 2012.
  22. ^ "Honorary Graduates of the University of Stirling" (2013), University of Stirling, accessed 2015-03-01.
  23. ^ Teddy Jamieson, "Interview: Mark Cousins on the end of youth", The Herald, 30 September 2012.
  24. ^ Fiona Reed, "Lip service rustles up a real glass act", The Scotsman, 12 June 1999  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required).
  25. ^ Cousins, Mark. "BBC Storyville: Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise". 

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