School of Arts and Cultures

Staff Profiles

Dr Ian McDonald

Director, Research Centre for Film

Background

Dr Ian McDonald is the Director of the Research Centre for Film 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, and campaign meetings around the world.

Ian's latest film is FREEDOM, a four-screen cinematic installation exhibited at The Great North Museum: Hancock in Newcastle from October 7 to December 1 2017 as part of the Freedom City 2017 commemorations. FREEDOM uses archive footage and original footage to respond to the visit of Dr Martin Luther King to Newcastle in 1967.

Trailer: https://vimeo.com/239590930

Ian's debut feature documentary garnered international acclaim. Algorithms, which follows three young blind chess players from India (http://www.algorithmsthedocumentary.com/) was nominated for a Grierson's and selected by over forty international film festivals where it picked up multiple awards (see below). It was released in cinemas in the US, UK and India. 

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) followed by OM:OldMan (2016/ 30 mins) about a veteran Ham Radio operator from India.

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.

 

Filmography:

As Cinematographer, Editor and Director:

FREEDOM (2017 / 3 screen 22mins / single screen 10 mins)

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

http://www.algorithmsthedocumentary.com/gallery/?gal=video

Justin (2011/30mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_o1IEhRuiE

10-11 Pavilion Parade (2011/15mins/English) https://vimeo.com/27362273

Melancholic Constellations: The Art of Kentridge (2010/55mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNzISG0ere8

Willem Boshoff: Reflections of a South African Artist (2010/23mins/English) https://vimeo.com/72657134 

Shame (2009/5mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=49TNVHRrc1c

Out of Our Hands (2009/9mins/Tamil) with a three-minute cut e4 d4 (2009/3mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3aarp-TwmO0

Brighton Bandits  (2007/40mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvKN3X_RCxY

Inside the Kalari (2007/20mins/English) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mo6peas8D3s

As Cinematographer, Editor and Executive Producer:

Seescapes Directed by Geetha J. (India/2014/10mins/Video & Animation/English, Hindi, Tamil & Odiya) https://vimeo.com/59838919

As Editor and Executive Producer:

Akam/Inside Directed by Geetha J. (India/2007/12 mins/Malayalam-English) http://vimeo.com/64454244

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  –http://www.berlinale-talentcampus.de/campus/talent/geetha-j/profile?pos=1 

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


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.








Research

Ian's current research interests include:

Documentary making: Politics, Theory, Practices

Sport Documentaries: Ideology, Aesthetics, Practices

Filming India: History, Culture, Practices

Ian in interested in supervising doctoral students in most areas of Documentary 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.

Current PhD students (with date of registration):

Evripidis Karydis (Jan 2015): 'Freedom through Football' a practice-led feature documentary film about football fan activism in Greece.

Cecilia Stenbom (Oct 2015): 'Commodity Culture, Screen and Narratives: a critical investigation into the language and mechanisms of consumer culture through hybridity and liminal space in screen-based practices' a practice-led fiction film project.

Jez Coram (Oct 2015) : 'Expanding the Essay Film: Critical making strategies for the essay as a moving image form to reflect upon the changing technological politics of the moving image' a practice-led experimental moving image installation. 

Ang Gao (Jan 2016): 'Beautiful Villages?' a practice led feature documentary film about the impact of the Beautiful Village policy in China.

Michael Pattison (Oct 2016): 'Edging the City: Urban Space, Structural Film Practice and the Pyschogeographic Derive' a practice-led experimental documentary film.

Louis Francis (Oct 2016): 'Children's experiences of illness and hospitalisation' a practice-led documentary about the journey of ill children and young people in the NHS'

Elisabetta Fabrizi (Oct 2016): "'Making it Happen': How the gallery as producer and distributor has changed the production, dissemination and reception of moving image work" 

Simon Rushton (Oct 2017): 'Audience, Affect and Cinematic Structures in the depiction of the religious life: exploring the extent to which documentary practice can convey and embody the experience of religious life' a practice-led feature documentary about a religious order in Northumbria.






Teaching

Ian is currently on sabbatical leave (Sept 2017 - Feb 2018)

Publications