Film maker finishes epic documentary on the history of cinema

Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting was turned into one of Scotland's most successful films

A SCOTTISH documentary maker has completed an epic 15 hour series that tells the history of cinema for the first time.

Mark Cousins, known for interviewing famous filmmakers such as David Lynch and Martin Scorsese in the TV series Scene By Scene, has spent the last six years making The Story Of Film: An Odyssey.

The project, which cost £850,000, spanned four continents and involved watching over a thousand films.

The 15-part programme is one of the longest network documentaries made by a Scottish production company.

It tells the story of world cinema from its birth in the 1890s to the present day, and is already being compared to Civilisation, the landmark documentary series presented by Kenneth Clark and broadcast on BBC2 in 1969.

The series, which was produced by Glasgow-based Hopscotch Films and starts to broadcast next Saturday, has already received accolades at preview screenings.

The world premiere of the programme will take place at the Toronto International Film Festival and it will then be broadcast on More4 over 15 consecutive Saturday nights.

The genesis of the project was a book, The Story Of Film, which Cousins, who is from Northern Ireland, published in 2004.

The following year, John Archer, the founder of Hopscotch Films, suggested that Cousins turn it into a documentary.

The film-makers travelled to four continents, including visits to LA, Telluride, Paris, Moscow, Dakar, Tehran and Tokyo.

Cousins travelled to Sydney to interview Baz Luhrmann, to Los Angeles to meet Robert Towne, the screenwriter of Chinatown, and to Moscow to film in the apartment where Sergei Eisenstein, the famous Russian director, once lived. The series also secured exclusive an interview with Claudia Cardinale, who talks about Federico Fellini, and with Bernardo Bertolucci who explains the work of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the Italian director.

Cousins said: “The Story Of Film has been an odyssey for me. I was in my 30s when I started it and am 46 now. It took me to Burkino Faso, and the streets of Kolkata at dawn. I will remember for the rest of my life, Stanley Donen, who directed Singing In The Rain, and his sharp tongue, and, in Cairo, the great director Youssef Chahine predicting the downfall of Hosni Mubarak five years before it happened.”

Archer, the producer who runs Hopscotch Films, said: “We had to track down the rights to over 1,000 film clips. It was an epic shoot and took two years to edit all the programmes.”



  1. This is a tremendous documentary…the only thing that was a bit annoying sometimes was the absence on the screen of the name of an individual speaking so often I didn’t know who it was if it wasn’t someone whose face was well known.

    Thank you to Mark Cousins for this, I often considered what a tremendous amount of work must have gone into it.

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