Research Centre for Film

Staff Profile

Dr Ian McDonald

Reader in Film Practice


Dr Ian McDonald is a Documentary Filmmaker and Reader in Film Practice at Newcastle University. He is also the founder of Film@CultureLab, the home of film practice at the University. 

Ian's latest film is The First Year (2021/88mins), on Jamie Driscoll's first 12 months as the new North of Tyne Mayor.  It was the Opening Night Film at the inaugural North East International Film Festival in Newcastle, where it also won the Audience Award. He is recently made his first smartphone documentary 'A Snail's Pace' (2021/10mins) which was nominated for Best Short Documentary at the London International Smartphone Film Festival and has also screened at festivals in the USA and Africa.

Who Is Europe? (2019 /58mins) is 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. Who is Europe? won the Audience Award at the Berlin Refugees Film Festival and was shortlisted for the Best Research Film of the Year at the AHRC Research in Film Awards in 2019.

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 (Audio-Visual Installation) prize by the British Association of Film, Television and Screen Studies. 

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. 

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 Justin (2011/30mins), a campaign film about Justin Fashanu that led to an actual campaign against homophobia in football. 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, especially observational and experimental documentaries.  Ian has also written about documentaries, including 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.



The First Year (2021 / 88mins)

A Snail's Pace (2021/10mins)

WHO IS EUROPE? A Film in Three Acts (2019 / 30mins. Produced by Geetha J.)

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

FREEDOM (2017 / 3 screen 22mins / single screen 10 mins. Produced by Geetha J.

OM:OldMan (2016/30mins/English & Malayalam. Produced by Geetha J.

Algorithms (2012/96 mins/English, Hindi, Tamil, Odiya. Produced by Geetha J.)

Justin (2011/30mins/English. Produced by Geetha J.

10-11 Pavilion Parade (2011/15mins/English. Produced by Geetha J. )

Melancholic Constellations: The Art of Kentridge (2010/55mins/English. Produced by Geetha J.

Willem Boshoff: Reflections of a South African Artist (2010/23mins/English. Produced by Geetha J. ) 

Shame (2009/5mins/English. Produced by Geetha J. 

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

Brighton Bandits  (2007/40mins/English. Produced by Geetha J.)

Inside the Kalari (2007/20mins/English. Produced by Geetha J.

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:

November 2021:The First Year won Audience Award at the North East International Film Festival

November 2021: The First Year Opening Night Film at the North East International Film Festival

June 2021: A Snail's Pace nominated for Best Short Documentary at London International Smartphone Film Festival

November 2019: Who Is Europe? Shortlisted for AHRC Research Film of the Year.

October 2019: Who Is Europe? won Audience Award at Refugee Film Festival, Berlin.

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 is focused on observational filmmaking as embodied critical and creative practice.

Ian is interested in supervising creative practice PhDs in all forms of documentary filmmaking. He is an experienced supervisor having supervised four creative practice PhD students to completion and is currently lead supervisor for six creative practice PhD students in documentary / non-fiction and second supervisor on three creative practice PhDs.

PhD students (completed)

Evripidis Karydis (2019): 'Freedom through Football' a practice-led feature documentary film about football fan activism in Greece. (Lead supervisor)

Cecilia Stenbom (2019): '"Rules of Engagement" – Investigating the transformation of unwritten social protocols into screen-based representations through hybridity and liminal practice'.  (Second supervisor)

Michael Pattison (2021) 'Walking Pictures: Investigating through Film Practice the Structural, Sequential and Durational Character of the Urban Walk'. (Lead supervisor)

Ang Gao (2021) 'Filmmaking in Rural China: The journey from observational to first-person filmmaking practice'. (Lead supervisor)

Current PhD students (all Creative Practice):

As Lead Supervisor:

Louis Francis: 'Medical Records: The NHS and its usage of Film'

Tom Draper: 'Brasillia of the North"  A practice-based enquiry into the legacy of T Dan Smith on post-war town planning and urbanism in Newcastle and the North East.

Natural Langdon: '"Who Am I?": Exploring My African-American Identity through Auto-Ethnographic Film Practice'

Justina Mitkute: 'Human and non-Human Animals: A critical and creative exploration of Anthropomorphism through documentary filmmaking'

Ricky Chambers: "Hart Hmz": Embodied displacement and the performance of vulnerability in documentary film practice'

Alex Xavier: 'Exploring the possibilities of smartphone filmmaking in observational film practice'

As Second Supervisor:

Jez Coram  '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. 

Simon Rushton: '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'.

Fang Yi Cheng ‘A Long Film: An exploration of the aesthetics of Boredom’


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

MCH1038 Introduction to Documentary

MCH2002 Filmmaking: Ideas to Screen

MCH3010 Observational Filmmaking

MCH3084 Film Practice Project


  • 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.
  • McDonald I. Who Is Europe? A Film in Six Acts. 2018. Digital File (.mov or .MP4).