This charming documentary on innocence and image-making from that venerable Northern Irish critic/filmmaker Mark Cousins offers rich insights into how we produce and consume cinema. Referencing Dennis Hopper’s acid-fried deconstruction of the filmmaking process, ‘The Last Movie’ (1971), in its title, Cousins follows in the trail of the late wild man to the war-ravaged rural border town of Goptapa in Kurdish Iraq, where he screens magical realist movies in the local square and hands out digital cameras to children to see what stories they invent. Though Cousins tries to push a thesis about the perplexing interconnectivity between war and cinema, what he achieves is far purer, a lyrical essay on the relationship between youth and the recorded image. Moreover, his film – like Abbas Kiarostami’s ‘Homework’ or ‘ABC Africa’ – chronicles how people create roles for themselves when bathed in the camera’s gaze.
Cousins excitedly discovers that one lad has a keen cinematic eye, and this child’s footage comes close to the critic’s own ideas of how good directors use a camera as ‘a machine for empathy’. His vignette – ‘The Boy and the Mud’ – sees a boy playing with mud in a ditch as he has no friends, and Cousins touts it as the first masterpiece of a director who is destined to make waves in the future. As ever, Cousins’s lilting, urgent narration is up there with the dry, Teutonic stylings of Werner Herzog for pure listening pleasure.