Culture Lab Newcastle

Staff Profile

Dr Alastair Cole

Lecturer in Film Practice


Alastair is a Lecturer in Film Practice at Film at Culture Lab,  and the Degree Programme Director of BA Hons Film & Media and BA Film Practices programmes. He is a documentary filmmaker and practice based researcher, with his current work focusing on inquiries situated within linguistic anthropology, social linguistics, multilingualism, and language rights, as well as elements of documentary film practice, including subtitling, translation and editing. His work aims to embrace the potential of creative documentary film as a uniquely valuable, public facing research methodology, and one that can foster new insights into humanities research related to the social and political aspects of language use.

His latest feature documentary film, Colours of the Alphabet (2016), premiered at the 2016 Glasgow Film Festival. It was shortlisted for best newcomer at the 2016 Greirson Awards, and has since had over 30 international festivals screenings, and has been released across Africa in 30 languages. The film is the major output of a research project focusing on themes of multilingualism, childhood, mother-tongue education and minority language rights in Zambia. It is also the centre of the international impact campaign focusing on indigenous language film translation, through subtitler training and Africa wide film distribution. You can read more about the project, and see the latest screenings and release information on its website, and Facebook and Twitter pages.

Alastair’s previous films have screened at festivals around the world, including twice at Cannes Critics Week, and have been broadcast in 26 countries. Further to his documentary film practice, Alastair has projects which engage with italian traditional music and live cinema scores. His written scholarship engages with both documentary film practice, and the themes of the research inquiries of his work. 

Alastair holds a Ph.D in Trans-Disciplinary Documentary Film from The University of Edinburgh, Scotland, as well as a M.Sc (Distinction) in Social Anthropology (Edinburgh) and B.A and B.Com (Otago). He has worked as a documentary film maker in Scotland, across Europe - including Italy, Finland and the Balkans, as well as in Zambia and South Africa. He previously taught at Edinburgh Napier University, The University of Edinburgh and as a guest lecturer at Shanghai Normal University.

You can see more about Alastair's work at and find him on Twitter at @TongueTiedFilms.


Alastair is teaching on: 

MCH1025 - Research Methods

MCH 1038 - Introduction to Documentary Film.

MCH 2086 - Analysing Documentary Practices.

MCH 2082 - Making a Short Documentary.

MCH2069 - Research Methods 2

MCH 3084 / MCH3086 - Final Film Practice Project.


Alastair’s current major research interests include:

  • Documentary film practice, history and theory.
  • Film-based practice research methodologies. 
  • Documentary film editing and non fiction narrative construction.
  • Linguistic anthropology, social linguistics, language ideologies as well as their filmic representation. 
  • Subtitling and translation in film. 

He is interested in supervising PhD projects in areas related to these, as well as practice based PhDs in documentary filmmaking, especially those with strong intersections with subjects related to anthropology and cultural studies. 


  • Cole A. Editing the observed - evaluation and value creation processes in the editing of a feature documentary film. . In: Craig Batty, Marsha Berry, Kath Dooley, Bettina Frankham, Susan Kerrigan, ed. The Palgrave Handbook of Screen Production. UK: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019. Submitted.
  • Higgins N, Cole A. From doctoral project to cinematic release: A dialogue on the impact pathway of Colours of the Alphabet. Journal of Media Practice and Education 2018, 19(3), 243-255.
  • Cole A, Course M. Muir ar n-athraichean (Our Fathers Sea). Rannsachadh na Gàidhlig 2018, Edinburgh: Tongue Tied Films, Edinburgh University, 2018.
  • Cole A, Zini E, Caffari S, Coco M, De-Feu T, Parlato A. Assunta Spina with Live Score. 2018. Scotland: Glasgow Film Theatre (Glasgow).
  • Cole A, Palladino S. Age is Just a Bingo Number. UK / Italy: Great Exhibition of the North (Newcastle), TeleMolise (TV, Italy), 2018.
  • Cole A. Colours of the Alphabet. 2016 Glasgow Film Festival: Lansdowne Productions, Tongue Tied Films, DER, 2016. DCP.
  • Cole A. Documentary Film as a Research Tool: Schooling for Modernity in Rural Zambia. In: Bell D, ed. Mind the Gap: Working papers on practice based doctoral research in the creative arts and media. Dublin: Distillers Press, National College of Art & Design, 2016.
  • Cole A, Dmitreva A, Szollosi D. Pikku Kalle?. Cannes Critics Week 2012: Tongue Tied Films, 2012.
  • Cole A. Do You Really Love Me?. Cannes Critics Week 2011: Tongue Tied Films, 2011. Short Documentary Film.
  • Cole A, Higgins N. Learning Through Film: Human Rights in Scotland. Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh, 2011.