The Story of Looking

As Mark Cousins prepares for surgery to restore his vision, the filmmaker explores the role visual experience plays in our individual and collective lives.

Year: 2021

Director: Mark Cousins

Producers: Adam Dawtrey and Mary Bell of Bofa Productions

World Premiere: Closing night film at Sheffield Doc Fest 2021

Screen Scotland Funding: The Story of Looking received £95,000 from The National Lottery and the Scottish Government through Screen Scotland’s Film Development and Production Fund to support Mark Cousins as a highly experienced writer, filmmaker and essayist and the film’s Scotland-based producers Adam Dawtrey and Mary Bell of Bofa productions, who are experienced film producers and have worked with Mark Cousins on a number of projects including The Eyes of Orson Welles.


The Story of Looking sees Mark Cousins prepare for surgery to restore his vision. Cousins explores the role that visual experience plays in our individual and collective lives. In a deeply personal meditation on the power of looking in his own life, he guides us through the riches of the visible world, a kaleidoscope of extraordinary imagery across cultures and eras.

At a time when we are more assailed by images than ever, he reveals how looking makes us who we are, lying at the heart of human experience, empathy, discovery and thought. He shares the pleasure and pain of seeing the world, in all its complexity and contradiction, with eyes wide open.

As the COVID-19 pandemic brings another dramatic shift of perspective, he reaches out to other lookers for their vision from lockdown, and travels to the future to consider how his looking life will continue to develop until the very end.

Still of Mark Cousins from The Story of Looking. Courtesy of Bofa Productions.