What Is This Film Called Love?
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    What Is This Film Called Love?

    Directed by

    United Kingdom


    77 min

    • English


    Karvlovy Vary IFF - Official Selection - Out of Competition

    What is this film called Love? is a passionate, 77 minute poetic documentary about the nature of happiness.



    Mark Cousins
    Mark Cousins
    Timo Langer
    PJ Harvey
    Simon Fisher Turner

    Director's Statement

    Stumbling Across a New Way of Making a Film People have always just gone out and made movies. Derek Jarman worked that way in England in the 70s and 80s. The experimental filmmakers in America did something similar with 8 mm cameras in the 60s and before. Andy Warhol’s team did the same. Impressionist directors like Maya Deren and, you could argue, Germaine Dulac worked in a free way. But, mostly, filmmaking has been a planned, scheduled, often story-boarded activity. Certainly it was for me. I’ve been directing, on and off, from 1989 and, if anything, prided myself in knowing what every shot would be, where the scene fitted in the story, having a very low shooting ratio. If anything, my producers were worried by how little “coverage” I’d shoot. But then three things happened: I loosened up as a person, I had a very influential encounter with Iranian cinema, and my partner bought me a Flip camera. The first of these is just about growing up, losing fears. The second changed my work. I started to spend time in Iran and loved the way filmmakers worked on a more human scale, and were responsive to new ideas. The third was equally important for me. Flip cameras are not much bigger than a phone, and are almost high definition quality. I started bringing mine everywhere, using it like a notebook, and realising that I was regularly getting shots that I wouldn’t otherwise get if I hadn’t it with me. Add those three things together and you get, in October 2011, a bloke in a city for three days with not much to do, but a camera in his pocket, and the realisation that he could make a film, there and then. The realisation came half-way through doing a press-up (see the film – I shot the moment). No funder could stop me making a film, I didn’t need their OK, I didn’t need to have been to school or university with someone whose dad was in the film industry, I didn’t need to live in Hollywood Mumbai or London or Paris. I could make a film right there, right then…and I could do it without (a) a script (b) funding (c) a schedule (d) a cast (e) a crew (f) a contract (g) insurance (h) catering (i) a budget. This sounds waaaay arrogant, I know, but I should be clear and say that I was excited about the realisation that I could make a film with nothing, not because I thought, for a moment, that the result would be seen by people, or play in festivals, or be a “proper” film in any way. I was excited because I could have the fun of imagining a film, and shooting it, framing shots, trying to capture emotions, etc, without all the stress that proper filmmaking entails. Once I realised that, anything went. Filming for those three day in Mexico City was like keeping a secret diary under lock and key. I could say anything , do anything, go anywhere, think whatever I like, without worrying what anyone might think, without any concern about making a professional fuck-up. Of course, now that this little film is starting to be shown publically, it could turn out to be a professional fuck up. But I must not think about that. Filmmakers everywhere are beginning to realise (or maybe they realised long ago and I am just a slow thinker) that 21st century cinema can have a degree of structural openness, roughness of form, capriciousness, neo-modernity and subjectivity which is liberating. I certainly felt liberated by making this cine-ad-lib. But as soon as I shot it, what did I do? I ran to my editor Timo Langer and my friend and producer Catherine Aitken, and artists like PJ Harvey, Alison Watt, Simon Fisher Turner, Luca de Salvia, and sound designer Ali Murray…and asked for help. From people who know their art and craft. Maybe that’s what I have learned through making this film which, I suspect, has changed my filmmaking: That it’s good to hyphenate the unstructured with the structured, the casual with the learned and professional and talented. Mark Cousins

    Festival Bookings


    We were charmed beyond belief by this rambling, philosophizing self-described "ad lib" of a film.

    Jessica Kiang, The Playlist (IndieWire)

    Mark Cousins

    Mark Cousins

    United Kingdom

    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.

    Selected Filmography