Culture Lab Newcastle

Staff Profile

Dr Ian McDonald

Director, Research Centre for Film


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.

His latest film is Who Is Europe? a split screen documentary about the crisis of Europe, borders, migration and racism. The film was commissioned a part of a broader academic research project, Co-HERE  on contemporary European identities and heritage practices. Trailer: Who is Europe? 

In 2017, Ian completed 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. It was awarded a Best Practice Research prize by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies. Trailer: FREEDOM 

Ian's debut feature documentary garnered international acclaim. Algorithms, which follows three young blind chess players from India 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. Trailer: Algorithms

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 ‘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.



As Cinematographer, Editor and Director (with clips and trailers)

WHO IS EUROPE? A Film in Three Acts (2019 / 30mins)

WHO IS EUROPE? A film in Six Acts  (2018 / 58mins)

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

OM: OldMan (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:

March 2019: FREEDOM won Practice Research Award, British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies

May 2017: OM:OldMan nominated for Best Documentary at the New York Indian Film Festival. 

November 2016: OM:OldMan nominated for Best Documentary at the Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris.

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'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'

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.


Ian teaches on a range of modules, specialising in observational documentary practices.

MCH1038 Introduction to Documentary

MCH2002 Filmmaking: Ideas to Screen

MCH3010 Independent Filmmaking

MCH3084 Film dissertations


  • McDonald I. Algorithms. India: AkamPuram, 2012. 96 mins/HDV/ B&W/English, Hindi, Tamil, Odiya (with English subtitles).
  • McDonald I. Justin. Brighton UK: Interventions, 2011. 30mins/Colour/HDV/English.
  • McDonald I. Film: 10-11 Pavilion Parade. Brighton, UK: Interventions, 2011. 15mins/HDV/Colour/English.
  • McDonald I. Willem Boshoff: Reflections of a South African Artist. Brighton, UK: Interventions, 2010. 23mins/Colour & B&W/HDV/English.
  • McDonald I. Melancholic Constellations: The Art of William Kentridge. Brighton, UK: Interventions, 2010. 55mins/Colour/HDV/English.
  • McDonald I. Film: Out of Our Hands. India: AkamPuram, 2009. 9mins/DV/Tamil (with English subtitles).
  • McDonald I. Film: Shame. Brighton, UK: Interventions, 2009. 5mins/HDV/English.
  • McDonald I. Film: Brighton Bandits. Brighton, UK: Interventions, 2007. 40mins/DV/English.
  • McDonald I. Film: Inside the Kalari. India: AkamPuram, 2007. 20mins/DV/English.
  • McDonald I. Myth and Masculinity in the Sport Films of Jorgen Leth. In: Anderson, E; Hargreaves, J, ed. Routledge Handbook of Sport, Sexuality and Gender. London, UK: Routledge, 2014.
  • McDonald I, Nalapat A. Sport, spectacle and the political economy of mega-events: the case of the Indian Premier League. In: Andrews, D., Carrington, B, ed. A Companion to Sport. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013, pp.493-505.
  • McDonald I. The Olympic Documentary and the 'spirit of Olympism'. In: Sugden, J. and Tomlinson, A, ed. Watching the Olympics: Politics, Power and Representation. London: Routledge, 2011, pp.108-121.
  • Carrington B, McDonald I, ed. Marxism, Cultural Studies and Sport. Routledge, 2009.
  • McDonald I. One Dimentional Sport: revolutionary Marxism and the critique of sport. In: Carrington, B; McDonald, I, ed. Marxism, Cultural Studies and Sport. London: Routledge, 2009, pp.pp. 32-48.
  • McDonald I. Critiquing the Olympic Documentary: Kon Ichikawa’s Tokyo Olympiad. Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics 2008, 11(2-3), 298-310.
  • Carrington B, McDonald I. The Politics of ‘Race’ and Sport Policy in the UK. In: Houlihan, B, ed. Sport and Society: A Student Introduction. London: Sage, 2008, pp.125-142.
  • McDonald I. Situating the Sport Documentary. Journal of Sport & Social Issues 2007, 31(3), 208-225.
  • McDonald I. Bodily Practice, Performance Art, Competitive Sport: A critique of kalarippayattu, the martial art of Kerala Contributions to Indian Sociology. Contributions to Indian Sociology 2007, 41(2), 143-168.
  • McDonald I. Political Somatics: Fascism, Physical Culture and the Sporting Body. In: Hargreaves, J; Vertinsky, P, ed. Physical Culture, Power and the Body. London: Routledge, 2007, pp.52-73.
  • McDonald I. Theorising partnerships: governance, communicative action and sport policy. Journal of Social Policy 2005, 34(4), 579-600.
  • Hayes S, McDonald I. ‘Race’, Racism and Education: Racial Stereotypes in Physical Education and School Sport. In: Hayes, S; Stidder, G, ed. Equity and Inclusion in Physical Education and Sport. London: Routledge, 2003, pp.153-168.
  • McDonald I. Class, Inequality and the Body in Physical Education. In: Hayes, S; Stidder, G, ed. Equity and Inclusion in Physical Education and Sport. London: Routledge, 2003, pp.169-183.
  • McDonald I. Hindu nationalism, cultural spaces, and bodily practices in India. American Behavioral Scientist 2003, 46, 1563-1576.
  • McDonald I. Critical Social Research and Political Intervention: Moralistic Versus Radical Approaches. In: Sugden, J; Tomlinson, A, ed. Power Games: A Critical Sociology of Sport. London: Routledge, 2002.
  • Carrington B, McDonald I, ed. 'Race', Sport and British Society. London: Routledge, 2001.
  • McDonald I, Ugra S. ‘It’s Just Not Cricket! Ethnicity, Division and Imagining the Other in English Cricket. In: Cohen, P, ed. New Ethnicities, Old Racisms. London: Zed Books, 1999.
  • McDonald I. Between Saleem and Shiva: The politics of cricket nationalism in ‘globalising’ India. In: J.Sugden & A.Bairner, ed. Sport in Divided Societies. Germany: Meyer & Meyer, 1999.
  • McDonald I. Physiological Patriots: The Politics of Physical Culture and Hindu Nationalism in India. International Review for the Sociology of Sport 1999, 34(4), 343-358.
  • McDonald I. Sport for All - 'RIP': A Political Critique of the Relationship between National Sport Policy and Local Authority Sports Development in London. In: Fleming, S., Talbot, M., & Tomlinson, A, ed. Policy and Politics in Sport, Physical Education and Leisure. Brighton UK: LSA, 1995.
  • McDonald I. Marxist and neo-Marxist Approaches on Sport. In: Giulianotti, R, ed. Routledge Handbook of the Sociology of Sport. London: Routledge, 2015, pp.40-49. In Preparation.