Skip to Content
The First Movie cover photo

The First Movie 2009


Distributed by Seventh Art Releasing, 1614 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90046; 323-845-1455
Produced by Scottish Screen & More 4 in association with Knowledge and ZDF in collaboration with Arte and Connect Film-Screen Siren Pictures
Directed by Mark Cousins
DVD, color, 88 min.

Sr. High - General Adult
Film Studies, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, Photography

Date Entered: 10/27/2011

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Mark Cousins grew up in Belfast and, as a result, knows first-hand about the devastating effect war has on children. Now a writer, director and cinematographer, he has traveled to other war-torn areas of the world, including Sarajevo, and understands the narrative and storytelling potential that film can have under these conditions. In 2008, Cousins and his crew went to the small village of Goptaka in northern Iraq to record the lives and stories of its children as they are introduced for the first time to movies. Now a seemingly bucolic though impoverished village, Goptaka was one of the thousands of Kurdish villages attacked in Al-Anfal genocidal campaigns carried out from 1986-89 at the hands of Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. The village children, although not alive during the chemical attacks that decimated the area, are still deeply affected by the disaster.

In this multi-layered video diary, a series of classic films, including The Red Balloon, The Boots and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial are played on outdoor cinema nights. Several children are also given small hand-held video cameras to make their own movies, which are interspersed as short clips. The pastoral beauty and heart-wrenching tragedy of this war-torn country are evident in the films themselves, the original music composition, and particularly through Cousins’ quiet narration and lyrical cinematography. Scenes of the children playing with balloons and, later, their reaction to the final scenes of E.T. are especially memorable.



  • Best Arts Documentary, 2010 Prix