Research Centre for Film and Digital Media

Staff Profile

Dr Ian McDonald

Director, Research Centre for Film & Digital Media.


Dr Ian McDonald is the Director of the Research Centre for Film and Digital Media at Newcastle University. He is also the founder and Director of Film@CultureLab, the home of film practice at the University. 

Ian is  a documentary filmmaker  and sociologist. His films have been screened at film festivals, academic conferences, campaign meetings and in cinemas around the world.

Ian's latest film is Algorithms which follows three young blind chess players from India ( The film has been selected by over thirty international film festivals, was released in cinemas in the US, UK and India, and won many awards including:

Best Film at the Film South Asia Festival in Kathmandu, Nepal

Best Editing in the International Competition at the Mumbai International Film Festival, India 

Prix du Patrimoine Culturel Immateriel at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival in Paris, France

Best Story at the Krasnogorski International Festival of Sport Movies in Moscow

Audience Film Prize at the RAI International Ethnographic Film Festival in Edinburgh, UK

Best Foreign Documentary at the LA Femme Film Festival in Los Angeles, USA

Special Mention in the Best Documentary category at the Durban International Film Festival in South Africa

Nominated for Best Documentary at the National Film Awards, UK

Nominated for Best Newcomer category for the Griersons, the British Documentary Awards

Certificate of Merit for Technical Excellence in Cinematography, Indian Documentary Producer Awards

Best Documentary at the First International Film Festival for Persons with Disabilities, Delhi, India. 

Algorithms has released in cinemas in the US and UK in 2014 and is releasing in India in 2015

Ian’s training as a sociologist has had a strong impact on his practice as a filmmaker. Having always used the camera to support his sociological field-work on sport and physical culture (especially in UK and India), Ian’s shift to documentary filmmaking is informed by a seemingly effortless ‘way of seeing’ based on the ‘sociological imagination’.  A distinctive form of film practice that refuses the boundaries between documentary, visual sociology and art can be evinced in his works. 

Ian’s very first documentary Inside the Kalari (2007/20mins) was a lyrical take on kalarippayattu, a martial art from Kerala, India. He went on to make two films about gay football and homophobia, Brighton Bandits (2007/40mins) and Shame (2009/5mins), before returning to India to make a short film about blind chess, Out of Our Hands (2009/9mins).  This was followed by two films made in South Africa: Melancholic Constellations: The Art of William Kentridge (2010/55mins) and Willem Boshoff: Reflections of a South African Artist (2010/23mins). In 2011, Ian completed two films in the UK:  a 'docu-promo', 10-11 Pavilion Parade (2011/15mins) and a campaign film, Justin (2011/30mins). Then came Algorithms (2012/96mins).  Ian is currently in post-production on a documentary about an amateur radio operator from India, co-directed with Geetha J, called Old Man (2015/ 30 mins), and he is also in development on two further international feature documentaries. 

Engaged in theory and practice, Ian not only makes documentaries but teaches documentary practice too. Ian has also written extensively about documentaries. His latest works include a critique of the official Olympic documentary and 'the spirit of Olympism', and an investigation into myth and masculinity in the sport films of Jorgen Leth. Ian is currently working on a monograph on Sport Documentaries (to be published by Routledge). Ian has also curated and programmed sport strands for film festivals. 

Ian graduated from Liverpool University with a BA (Hons) Political Theory & Institutions in 1989. He then graduated from Leicester University with a MA (Distinction) Sociology of Sport in 1990. Ian was awarded his PhD (Critiquing Sport: Policies and Practices) by the University of Brighton in 2007.



As Cinematographer, Editor and Director:

Old Man (2016/30mins/English & Malayalam) (co-directed and co-edited with Geetha J) 

Algorithms (2012/96 mins/English, Hindi, Tamil, Odiya) with English subtitles

Justin (2011/30mins/English)

10-11 Pavilion Parade (2011/15mins/English)

Melancholic Constellations: The Art of Kentridge (2010/55mins/English)

Willem Boshoff: Reflections of a South African Artist (2010/23mins/English) 

Shame (2009/5mins/English)

Out of Our Hands (2009/9mins/Tamil) with a three-minute cut e4 d4 (2009/3mins/English)

Brighton Bandits  (2007/40mins/English)

Inside the Kalari (2007/20mins/English)

As Cinematographer, Editor and Executive Producer:

Seescapes Directed by Geetha J. (India/2014/10mins/Video & Animation/English, Hindi, Tamil & Odiya)

As Editor and Executive Producer:

Akam/Inside Directed by Geetha J. (India/2007/12 mins/Malayalam-English)

As Executive Producer: 

A Short Film About Nostalgia by Geetha J. (India/2006/17 mins/English)

To see a three-minute cut edited by Ian McDonald, go to  – 

Woman with a Video Camera Directed by Geetha J. (India/2005/52mins/Music)

Film Awards & Esteem:

January 2015 - Algorithms nominated for Best Documentary in the National Film Awards, UK.

July 2014 - Algorithms nominated for Best Newcomer at Grierson 2014: The British Documentary Awards.

April 2014 - Algorithms won Best Story Award at the Krasnogorski International Festival of Sport Movies, Moscow, Russia.

February 2014 - Algorithms  won Best Editing Award at the Mumbai International Film Festival, India.

November 2013 - Algorithms awarded the Prix du Culturel Immateriel at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris, France.

October 2013 - Algorithms won the prestigious Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at Film South Asia 2013, Kathmandu, Nepal.

July 2013 - Special Mention for Algorithms in Documentary category at Durban International Film Festival, South Africa.

June 2013 - Audience Award for Algorithms at RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Films, Edinburgh.  

 February 2013 – Jury member at International Festival of Sport Films, Moscow, Russia. 

April 2010 - Visiting Professor (Sport Documentary) at Meiji University, Tokyo, Japan.

March 2007 - Jury member at Pune International Film Festival, India.

  June 2006 - Jury member at Commonwealth Film Festival, Manchester, UK.

2005 - Co-founder and Secretary of Brighton International Film Society (BIFS). Ken Loach was the patron of BIFS. Received the British Federation of Film Societies award for Best New Film Society in 2006.

December 2005 - Curator of a package of sport documentaries for the International Film Festival of Kerala, India.


Other video and visual culture exhibitions:

Scenes from a Campaign, a 60-minute looped video installation at the Brighton Library, Jubilee Square, for Winter Pride, March 7, 2009.

Curator of the Fans, Stands and Homosexuality exhibition, a photographic and artistic exploration of football’s other cultures.  Chelsea School, University of Brighton, December 2008

An interview with William Kentridge + William Kentridge’s ‘The Magic Flute’, a 60-minute looped video installation at the William Kentridge: Fragile Identities Exhibition, Sallis Benny Gallery, University of Brighton, UK. November-December 2007.


Ian in interested in supervising doctoral students in most areas of Film Theory and Practice. He is particularly interested in supervising Practice-based Phds in Documentary filmmaking (especially alternative, experimental, political and observational documentaries.) Other areas include: Theorising documentary as a critical and creative practice; History of the Documentary; Intersections between the Documentary and Sociological / Anthropological /Cultural Studies; Studies of Independent Film Production and Exhibition; Creative Documentary Practices in India / South Asia; Film Festival Studies; Most aspects of World Cinema studies; and last but not least, Sports Documentaries.

Ian's current research interests include:

Documentary making: Politics, Theory, Practices

Sport Documentaries: Ideology, Aesthetics, Practices

Filming India: History, Culture, Practices


Ian is the academic lead in designing and delivering the BA Film & Media and the new BA Film Practices programme (commencing in 2016). He is currently developing a new Masters programme in Creative Film Practice (scheduled for 2018/19)

Teaching in 2015/16:

Ian is the module leader for the following postgraduate modules:

Semester 1: COM8005 Documentary Practice 1: The aesthetics and practice of observational filming

Semester 2: COM8006 Documentary Practice 2: Self-shooting a short documentary

Semester 3: COM8004 Film Practice Project (Practice-Based Dissertation)