The Story of Film: An Odyssey

An Epic Fifteen Hour Journey Chronicling The Birth and Evolution of Cinematic History by Mark Cousins



THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is an unprecedented cinematic event—an epic journey that chronicles the birth and evolution of the world’s greatest popular art form: cinema. A 15-hour-long documentary survey that begins with the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th Century and concludes with the multi-billion dollar globalized digital industry of the 21st Century, THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is a monumental work about yesterday and tomorrow—and everything in between. Directed and hosted by film historian Mark Cousins, THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is, in Cousin’s own words, “a love letter to cinema”—a bold, passionate and essential chronicle on the history and growth of world cinema.

Painstakingly researched, curated and filmed over a six year period on five continents, THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY covers 120 years of world cinema in 15 hour-long installments brimming with more than one thousand film clips from the greatest and most important movies ever made. The Birth of a Nation, Frankenstein, The Grand Illusion, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Little Caesar, Blade Runner, The Seventh Seal, Raging Bull, Gone with the Wind, A Hard Day’s Night, City Lights, Saving Private Ryan, Johnny Guitar and Psycho are only a handful of the hundreds of movies that are represented onscreen in the unprecedented cinematic voyage of THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY.


THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY takes viewers to many famous moments in film — the birth of Hollywood and the great movie genres, the evolution of movie stardom, the shock of the French “New Wave,” the revolution of digital cinema, and much more. But THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY goes further and deeper in the history of cinema than any other recent celluloid survey, examining, amongst many things, Shanghai films of the 30s, the great Indian melodramas of the 50s and the triumph of African filmmakers of the 70s. It also touches and delves into social issues at various periods in the 20th Century including the role of women in cinema and the driving forces behind the industry.

Filmed at key locations in film history around the world—from Thomas Edison’s New Jersey laboratory to Alfred Hitchcock’s London; and from post-war Rome tothe thriving industry of modern day Mumbai—THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY also features a cascade of interviews with legendary filmmakers and actors including Stanley Donen, Kyoko Kagawa, Gus van Sant, Lars Von Trier, Wim Wenders, Abbas Kiarostami, Claire Denis, Bernardo Bertolucci, Paul Schrader, Robert Towne, Jane Campion and Claudia Cardinale.

Staggering in its scope and ambition, THE STORY OF FILM: AN ODYSSEY is a cinematic landmark, an outstanding and loving paean to the world of film and, quite assuredly, the most comprehensive historical document on cinema ever created.



Part 1 1895-1918: The World Discovers – A New Artform

This opening of The Story of Film: An Odyssey unveils the birth of a grand new art form: the movies. Filmed in the very buildings where the first movies were made, Part 1 reveals that ideas and passion have always driven film, more than money and marketing. Following the stories behind camera techniques, special effects, and the very first movie stars, Part 1 travels to Hollywood to see how it all came together and how the mystique—and myth—was born. And there’s more glamour afoot as the great movie palaces are built.

Part 2 1918-1928: The Triumph of American Film – and the First of Its Rebels

Part 2 reveals how Hollywood became the center of the glittering entertainment industry. It delves into how star directors like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton emerged, but how Hollywood’s gloss and fantasy was challenged byother filmmakers like Robert Flaherty, Eric Von Stroheim and Carl Theodor Dreyer, who wanted films to be considered serious and mature. Filmed in Hollywood, Denmark and Moscow, Part 2 looks at the early battle over the soul of cinema during a period that yielded some of the greatest movies ever made.

Part 3 1918-1932: The Great Rebel Filmmakers – Around the World

The 1920s were a golden age for world cinema. Part 3 visits Paris, Berlin, Moscow, Shanghai and Tokyo to discover the places where movie makers were pushing the boundaries of the medium. German Expressionism, Soviet montage, French impressionism and surrealism were passionate new film movements, as were the lesser known but still glorious triumphs of the Chinese and Japanese cinema.

Part 4The 1930s: The Great American Movie Genres – and the Brilliance of European Films

The coming of sound in the 1930s upended everything! Part 4 chronicles the birth of new ideas and varied genres of film—screwball comedies, gangster pictures, horror films, westerns and musicals—and offers a look at master of many genres, filmmaker Howard Hawks. Meanwhile, far away from Hollywood, in Europe, England’s Alfred Hitchcock hits his stride and French directors become masters of mood. Then there’s the discovery that three of the great films of 1939 – The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind and Nintochka – all have something in common.

Part 5 1939-1952: The Devastation of War – and a New Movie Language

Part 5 of The Story of Film: An Odyssey shows how the trauma of war elevated cinema to a more daring level. The story begins in Italy and then moves to Hollywood to focus on the rise of Orson Welles, the darkening of American film, and the drama of the McCarthy era. Screenwriters Paul Schrader and Robert Towne discuss these years and Stanley Donen, the director of Singin’ in the Rain, talks exclusively about his career. But it’s not a Hollywood film that defines the era, but rather the British post-war masterpiece The Third Man.

Part 6 1953-1957: The Swollen Story – World Cinema Bursting at the Seams

Exploring the story of sex and melodrama in the movies of the Fifties, Part 6 discovers James Dean, On the Waterfront and the glossy weepies of the time and travels to Egypt, India, China, Mexico, Britain and Japan to find that movies there were also full of rage and passion. Part 6 also features exclusive interviews with the people who worked with legendary Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, as well as renowned Japanese actress Kyoko Kagawa and the first great African director, Youssef Chahine.

Part 7 1957-1964: The Shock of the New – Modern Filmmaking In Western Europe

Part 7 tells the explosive story of film in the late 1950s and early 1960s, led by beautiful movie star Claudia Cardinale talking exclusively about the Italian master Federico Fellini. In Denmark, Lars Von Trier describes his admiration for Swedish great Ingmar Bergman, and Italy’s Bernardo Bertolucci remembers his work with fellow filmmaking countryman Pier Paolo Pasolini. Finally, Part 7 looks at how French filmmakers planted a bomb under the movies and how its resulting “new wave” began to sweep across Europe.

Part 8 1965-1969: New Waves – Sweep Around the World

The 1960s was a time of the emergence of dazzling, breakthrough cinema from around the world. In Hollywood, legendary cinematographer Haskell Wexler reveals how documentary influenced mainstream movies, while Easy Rider and 2001: A Space Odyssey begin a new era in America cinema. As Black African cinema is born and the new wave in cinema flickers across the world, moviegoers discover the films of Poland’s Roman Polanski, Russia’s Andrei Tarkovsky, Japan’s Nagisa Oshima and India’s Mani Kaul.

Part 9 1967-1979: New American Cinema

Part 9 examines the maturation of American cinema in the late 1960s and 1970s. Buck Henry, screenwriter of The Graduate, talks exclusively about movie satire of the time; Paul Schrader in New York considers his existential screenplay for Taxi Driver; writer Robert Towne explores his dark ideas in Chinatown; and director Charles Burnett talks about the birth of Black American cinema.

Part 10 1969-1979: Radical Directors in the 70s – Make State of the Nation Movies

Looking at the rise of movies that attempted to spark social and political change, Part 10 begins in Germany with Wim Wenders, heads to Britain in the Seventies and talks exclusively to Ken Loach and then travels to Italy. After witnessing the birth of the new Australian cinema, The Story of Film then arrives in the Far East at a time when Japan was producing some of the world’s most moving cinema. As even bigger, bolder questions about film are being asked in Africa and South America, Part 10 ends with a look at John Lennon’s favorite film, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s extraordinary, psychedelic The Holy Mountain.

Part 11 1970s and Onwards: Innovation in Popular Culture – Around the World

Star Wars, Jaws and The Exorcist created the multiplexes, but they were also amazingly innovative. The Story of Film: Part 11 delves into the arrival of multiplex moviegoing, and then travels to India where the world’s most famous movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, shows how Bollywood started doing some remarkable new things in the Seventies. Meanwhile, Bruce Lee martial arts movies kick-start the kinetic action films of Hong Kong, where Master Yuen Wo Ping talks exclusively about his action movies and the “wire fu” choreography he created for The Matrix.

Part 12 The 1980s: Moviemaking and Protest – Around the World

With Ronald Reagan in the White House and Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street, the 1980s were the years of protest in the movies. In Part 12, American independent director John Sayles talks exclusively about these years, a time when brave filmmakers used there camera to confront and question those in power. In Beijing, modern Chinese cinema blossoms before the Tian’anmen crackdown; in the Soviet Union, the past wells up in a collection of astonishing films; and in Poland, master director Krzysztof Kieslowski rises to prominence.

Part 13 1990-1998: The Last Days of Celluloid – Before the Coming of Digital

Few saw it coming, but cinema around the world in the 1990s entered a golden age. Part 13’s story starts in Iran with master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami, then moves on to Japan and Shinya Tsukamoto, who laid the ground for the bold new Japanese horror cinema. The story then moves to Paris, where one of the world’s most respected directors, Claire Denis, talks exclusively about her work. Part 13 ends in Mexico with the blossoming of the country’s new generation of filmmakers and their works.

Part 14 The 1990s: The First Days of Digital – Reality Losing Its Realness in America and Australia

The flashy and playful 1990s yielded an equally flashy and playful (and brilliant!) cycle of movies in the English-speaking world. Part 14 considers what was new in Quentin Tarantino’s dialogue and how the Coen brothers offered a newer, edgier kind of cinema. . Ed Neumeier, the writer of Starship Troopers and RoboCop, chats exclusively about the irony of those films, while Australia’s Baz Luhrmann talks about Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge. Then comes an examination of the mid-decade plunge into the digital world and how it changed the movies forever.

Part 15 2000 Onwards: Film Moves Full Circle – and the Future of Movies

In the final part of The Story of Film: An Odyssey, movies come full circle. Films get more serious after the tragedy of 9/11, and Romanian movies come to the fore, followed by David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive being hailed as one of the most complex dream films ever made…until, arguable, Inception, which turned film into a game. In Moscow, master director Alexander Sokurov talks exclusively about his innovative works and then The Story of Film moves beyond the present…to look at the cinema of the future.