When Mark Cousins was growing up in war-torn Belfast, he would escape the horrors of life by going to the movies. For a child, imagination can make all the difference. But what about kids in strife-ridden areas who don't have the luxury of nearby movie theaters? How do they cope?
As it turns out, children who don't watch movies are still capable of engaging in whimsy and fun. It's true! Mark Cousins learns this in The First Movie, a documentary shot in the tiny, impoverished village of Goptapa, Iraq. The locals have never even seen a film before, much less been part of one, and Cousins gives them both opportunities. He screens E.T. and other gems for them, and gives video cameras to a few of the kids so they can record their own stories.
The subject of how children deal with the realities of war is potentially a very moving one, and "The First Movie" often addresses it with great sensitivity. Unfortunately, Cousins inserts himself into the story too much of the time, and what should be a movie about Goptapa turns into a movie about Mark Cousins' trip to Goptapa. His intentions seem to have been pure, but by the end, he comes across as parochial and condescending.