Filmmaker Mark Cousins goes to Albania for five days, and films what he sees. He discovers that the movie prints in the country's film archive are decaying. In investigating this, Cousins begins to encounter bigger questions about the history and memory of a place. Perhaps a country whose 20th Century, dominated by its authoritarian ruler Enver Hoxha, was so traumatic, should allow its film heritage to fade away? Perhaps a national forgetting should be welcomed? Influenced by the films of Chris Marker, Cousins' film broadens to consider the architecture of dictators and the great icon paintings of Onufri. In the past, when cartographers knew little about a country, they wrote on it "Here be Dragons". Albania was, for decades, one of the least well know countries in the world. Cousins' road movie meditation takes the advice of Goethe: "If you would understand the poet, you must go to the poet's land."
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A thoughtful meditation on our emotional and political relationship to the screen.
Cousins' travelogue mode exists somewhere between the homespun, thumb-twiddling whimsy of Ross McElwee and the hard poetic/philosophical postulations of Chris Marker (while never straying too close to either)
Cousins, rather than attempting to paint a complete picture of the country, films whatever captures his imagination, like an intellectual, well-researched travel film.
There is a whole lot of heart and soul in the film as well as moments of real insight.
Here Be Dragons is a strangely engaging film, helped in no small part by Cousin’s melodic, mesmerising intonation, alongside a keen eye for the interesting in the mundane.
Movies have broadened out. They started as a babbling brook and now they’re a big, wide river – and all over the world.
Mark Cousins is a Northern Irish filmmaker, critic and programmer. He programmed the Edinburgh FF (1996-97), hosted BBC2’s MOVIEDROME (1997-2000) and SCENE BY SCENE (1999-2000). He is the author of "The Story of Film" and co-wrote "Imagining Reality: the Faber Book of Documentary" with Kevin Macdonald. In addition, he is the co-founder (with Tilda Swinton) of the 8½ Foundation which is a Scottish-based not-for-profit organisation dedicated to introducing world cinema to children. His works include THE FIRST MOVIE, THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY (Stanley Kubrick Award from Michael Moore) and many more including 6 DESIRES: DH LAWRENCE AND SARDINIA, LIFE MAY BE, A STORY OF CHILDREN AND FILM, WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE?, HERE BE DRAGONS, I AM BELFAST, and more. Cousins curated a season of films for the Romanian Cultural Institute in London. In 2016 he made his debut as a fiction director with STOCKHOLM MY LOVE, which was released in the UK by the BFI. In 2017 he completed BIGGER THAN THE SHINING. His latest book, The Story of Looking, is about humankind's visual engagement with the world. That year he also completed the film THE EYES OF ORSON WELLES about the filmmaker's graphic art. At the start of 2018, he has just completed a 2 hour, four screen, commission for the Rotterdam Film Festival, Storm in My Heart, and is editing a 22 hour film, Eye Opener, which looks again at cinema, from the perspective of women directors.