In Cousins’ own words “no art form has looked at children more than film” and that is the reason he has chosen to put together this wonderful documentary. In choosing to represent children in film Cousins had the easy way and the hard way; he could have gone the easy way and shown us Gem and Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, but he goes the hard way and brings together an unbelievable collage of movies from all times and countries.
In using his own niece and nephew in a home video he represents the stages of confidence in children when on camera and reflects on it by comparison to many different productions. The beauty in this approach means it is not a straight shooting chronology of movies down the years, but rather a reflection of styles in particular focusing on national identity as a guide. For example, in Japanese films the children are shy, but in British and Russian productions they tend to focus on the social classes. In one instance the comparison of a very polished seven-year-old Shirley Temple to a child that makes mistakes and errors in her performance is excellent. We all fell in love with Temple, but is it better to admire the child who is actually being herself rather than a polished doll? I think it is.
But it doesn’t stop with children’s performance and moves on to focus on colour schemes, the types of shots used or how they are lit. For the novice this undoubtedly makes it more interesting and comparisons of E.T. to Charlie Chaplin show how the simplest ideas have been conveyed over the years.
No matter what style Cousins discusses or what angle he takes the joy is in watching all these performances across so many different spectrums and Cousins enthusiasm for the project is undoubtedly infectious. It’s a heart-warming endeavour.