Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise
June 8th, 2016

Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise
Wednesday, June 8th, 2016 / 8:00pm
Burning Books

2015 / 72 minutes / English / Color
Directed by: Mark Cousins
Print supplied by: Hopscotch Films

Please join us for a special screening of Mark Cousins’
festival favorite documentary Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise [2015].

Ticket Information: Free and Open to the Public

• Stop in early for FREE Breadhive baked goods while supplies last! •

• Bring your ticket stubs and join us at The Black Sheep
after the show for 2 for 1 drink specials •

Cultivate Cinema Circle’s Spring 2016 Season Sponsor:

Event Sponsors:

420 Connecticut St, Buffalo, NY 14213

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courtesy of Hopscotch Films:

70 years ago this month the bombing of Hiroshima showed the appalling destructive power of the atomic bomb. Mark Cousins’ bold new documentary looks at death in the atomic age, but life too. Using only archive film and a new musical score by the band Mogwai, Atomic shows us an impressionistic kaleidoscope of our nuclear times: protest marches, Cold War sabre rattling, Chernobyl and Fukishima, but also the sublime beauty of the atomic world, and how X Rays and MRI scans have improved human lives. The nuclear age has been a nightmare, but dreamlike too.


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“Painting = Seeing + Thinking.”

courtesy of the I am Belfast press kit:

Mark Cousins is an Northern Irish filmmaker, writer and curator living and working in Scotland. In the early 1990s he became director of the Edinburgh International Film Festival. He has made films for TV about neo-Nazism, Ian Hamilton Finlay and the Cinema of Iran.

His 2004 book The Story of the Film, was published in Europe, America, China, Mexico, Brazil and Taiwan. The Times said of it “by some distance the best book we have read on cinema.” Cousins adapted the book into a 930-minute film, The Story of Film: An Odyssey (“The place from which all future revisionism should begin” – New York Times). Michael Moore gave it the Stanley Kubrick Award at his Traverse City Film Festival. It won a Peabody in 2014.

Next Cousins wrote, directed and filmed his first feature documentary, The First Movie, about kids in Kurdish Iraq. It won the Prix Italia. His other feature films include What Is This Film Called Love?, Here Be Dragons, A Story of Children and Film, which was in the Official Selection in Cannes, Life May Be, co-directed with Iranian filmmaker Mania Akbari, and 6 Desires, an adaptation of DH Lawrence’s book Sea and Sardinia. He is currently making Stockholm My Love, a symphony starring Neneh Cherry, and directing the archive film Atomic, a collaboration with the band Mogwai.

Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images


[tab title=”Letter to My 8 1/2 Year Old Self”]

courtesy of Vertigo Magazine:

“Letter to My Eight and a Half Year Old Self”, by Mark Cousins

You are in Belfast. It is 1974. The city is a war zone, dead and locked up at night. You are living in that house on the Crumlin Road. You do not know it yet but in two years time, a bomb in that street will destroy it. Don’t worry, you will all be evacuated and, as a result, you will start a new life on a housing estate in a town called Antrim.

There will be lots of Belfast people there – tens of thousands, in fact, but Antrim will have no cinema. You will see movies on TV – BBC2. You are about to fall in love with two directors – Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles. In Belfast in three years time you will see a film called Jaws, but it is one by Welles – Touch of Evil – that will change your life. It will make you fall in love with the drug of cinema, the feeling it gives you.

How will cinema change your life? It will stop the world feeling scary. You will discover a quietude in cinemas, in the dark, before the lights go down. In a letter to her son, who is the same age as you are, an actress named Tilda Swinton called this feeling “ecstatic removal”. My friend Tony McKibbin says that in life people should protect their nervous systems. Looking back, I can see that you were a nervy wee boy in the 70s so maybe you went into the Odeon on Great Victoria Street to protect yourself in the way Tony describes. But protect isn’t quite the right word. You will find, as you grow up and become a man, that release is what you will feel in cinemas, the sense that your nervous system, which is usually defended, in the ready position, stops shrinking and opens out like a flower.

To what will it open out in the coming years of your life? Tilda tells her son that he will discover “the promised land of freedom”, and that’s what you will find too. You will feel imaginative fireworks explode in your head, so unfettered is cinema. You will feel the rush to tears at the beauty of Claudia Cardinale in Once Upon a Time in the West but then, later, you will realise, with life changing consequences, that it was only partially her that brought those tears. It was also, inconceivably, impossibly, ridiculously, the exalted sweep of the film’s image up into the air, over the railway station and further still to reveal a frontier town being born.

You will run like a sprinter with this realisation that form, camera moves, what Daniel Frampton romantically calls the thinking of the film, moves you and sustains you. You will come to find, as a teenager and in your early twenties, that you need cinema, the way you need to dance, to remind you of the bodily and mental liberties that existence affords you.

This sprint, this dance, this love will become your life. And here’s something you could never guess, living where you are, in working class Belfast, a planet away from Hollywood: you will earn your living in cinema, close to its contours. Are you shocked? I’d expect so. You’ll discover that documentary films – in which the director is really co-director, with life itself – suit your sense of not wanting to be in full control, and you’ll make some daring ones. You’ll write and talk about films in newspapers and on TV but, soon, you’ll find that you have made a vow to yourself not to be part of the marketing of mainstream cinema, so you will sprint some more and find that suddenly you are amongst the films of people with names like Weeresethakul, Tsuchimoto, Kiarostami, Sokurov, Dumont, Almodovar, Chahine, Farrokzhad, Mambety, Imamura, Kotting, Bill Douglas, Jarman and Malick. By the time you realise this, you will be miles from anywhere. You will feel lonely there – so letters like Tilda’s will mean a lot – but dead happy too, alert, paying attention, as John Sayles would say, astonished, as Jean Cocteau exhorted.

Then something else will happen. You will notice that most of the world is talking about a James Bond film called Casino Banal. You will go and see it and find it cheesy and boring. You will get angry at such things. You will start to write about the fact that invigorating movies get squashed, or outrun, by steroid-boosted cookie cutter ones. Tilda talked about her work as being an act of resistance. Your work will feel like that. As a passionate, decentred, curious critic, you will try to articulate an opposition to the dead contrivance of dominant cinema, in the way Terry Eagleton suggests in The Function of Criticism.

So movies will do something to you and, eventually, you will begin to do something back to them. But what, for now, at the age you are now, do I wish for you? I wish you had more film books at hand than Halliwell’s. I wish the world of cinema would open up faster for you. You found your way to Iran and its cinema, the work of Ghatak and Dutt, Gerima and Muratova, all on your own. But, tying Tilda’s thoughts and mine together, I wish for this: something called the 8 ½ Foundation. A trust, based in Scotland perhaps, where Tilda and I live, which would make 20 films available for free on DVD to children around the world, on their 8 ½ th birthday, their movie day. These films would be the best, most imaginative, movies of all time – directed by Miyazaki, Norman McLaren, Buster Keaton and Michael Powell, films with titles like Pelle Alone in the World, The Red Balloon and The Singing Ringing Tree. They would be available subtitled in 50 languages. The foundation would be funded by film studios around the world, to enrich the culture in which they operate, a gesture of optimism about their medium.

8 ½ is the perfect age to fall in love with cinema. It was the name of a great film. I found out only last year, in the dark, when someone recognized my voice at a firework display, that the Indian family who ran the Curzon cinema in Belfast in 1974 – which is now, for you – ran spectacular Indian movies in the morning back then, before the doors opened. They are running them now, as I write. Isn’t that remarkable? The 8 ½ Foundation could be remarkable.

You lucky thing. You are about to discover your passion.



[tab title=”Links”]
Here is a curated selection of links shared on our Facebook page for additional insight/information:

6/3/16 – We will proudly be sending all donations given at next week’s Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise screening at Burning Books to the MPS Society for MPS disease support, research and awareness. If you’d like to find out more or would like to donate directly, click here.

6/4/16 – “The CCC turns one year old this month with a lineup highlighted by the great Werner Herzog. The Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre, the Wrath of God director is also a fascinating documentary filmmaker, and his latest looks to be no exception. Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World by Werner Herzog, a study of our interconnecting online lives, has its Buffalo premiere at 7 p.m. on June 13 at the North Park Theatre (1428 Hertel Ave.). The month also includes Mark Cousins’ Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise – Free Film Screening, a documentary about the nuclear age, at 8 p.m. on June 8 at Burning Books (420 Connecticut St.). And Jan Ole Gerster’s charming narrative feature A Coffee In Berlin screens at 1 p.m. on June 25 at the Mason O. Damon Auditorium at the Buffalo & Erie Central Library (1 Lafayette Sq.).” Christopher Schobert, Buffalo Spree magazine – link

6/7/16 – “[Mark Cousins’ Atomic: Living in Dread and Promise] may be the most important thing Mogwai have ever been involved in and not only do they create a piece of work that matches their usual level of beauty, but also their most surreal and disturbing music to date.” Simon Tucker, Louder Than Warlink

3/24/17 – Cultivate Cinema Circle alum Mark Cousins wrote a letter to the late Ingmar Bergman, ten years after his death. – link

4/28/17 –

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