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Copyright 2019 Steven Eastwood and Janet Harbord


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Wellcome Trust

Queen Mary, University of London

Autism Research Group

Supported by

Meet the team

Autism Through Cinema is led and managed by film professors

Janet Harbord and Steven Eastwood.


Janet and Steven are part of a core research team that includes a doctoral student and project administrator. Other principle collaborators joining the project are researchers in film studies and autism studies, as well as people with autism.


In addition, experts from key areas of ethics, medical research, autism and film are part of an advisory board that reviews, guides and contributes to Autism Through Cinema.

Together the team will explore far-reaching questions that extend into both a medical visual history and a future-oriented collaborative practice with potential for arts-educational work.

Research leads

steven eastwood.jpg

Steven Eastwood is leading Autism Through Cinema’s practice work, collaborating with the project team to devise workshop materials, engage participants, and produce the film and VR components.


Steven’s research as an artist-filmmaker and professor of Film Practice focuses on ethics and the complexity of encounter between filmmaker and subject within the social frame of filmmaking.


His second feature film, ISLAND (2017), had its world premiere at the 61st BFI London Film Festival in 2017 and its international premiere at Rotterdam Film Festival 2018. It was released in UK cinemas and nominated for a BIFA award in 2018. His first feature film BURIED LAND (2010) was officially selected for Tribeca, Moscow, Sarajevo, Mumbai film festivals 2010 and is available on iTunes. Recent exhibitions include THE INTERVAL AND THE INSTANT, a multi-screen installation solo show and sister project to ISLAND, which opened at Fabrica Gallery Brighton in 2018. His documentary THOSE WHO ARE JESUS (2001) was nominated for a Grierson Award. Between 2010-13, Steven was commissioned by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation to make a series of film portraits for Project Artworks’ IN TRANSIT. His documentary APPROACHES TO AUTISM (1998) became a highly influential educational film.


Steven is the Head of Film Practice at Queen Mary, University of London, co-chair of the Centre for Film & Ethics, and convenor of the MA in Documentary Practice. Prior to joining QMUL, he was the director of the Moving Image Research Centre at the University of East London, and an Assistant Professor in film at SUNY Buffalo.


He has convened a number of symposia and screenings to do with cinema and artists’ moving image, and has published widely. Steven co-founded the arts laboratory event OMSK (1995-2008). He gained a theory-practice PhD through UCL, The Slade in 2007.

Professor of Film Practice,

Queen Mary,

University of London

Steven Eastwood

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Janet Harbord is leading Autism Through Cinema’s archive work as part of the first stage of the research; collaborating with the project team to scope, select and interpret medical archive film relevant to the project.


Janet is interested in the ways film creates relationships between bodies, feelings and environments, and explores this in her writing.


In FILM CULTURES (2002), she examines how film from its inception enacted shock on its viewers through architecture and environment. In THE EVOLUTION OF FILM (2007) Janet asserts the historical decline of cinema as leading to new concerns about attention and distraction in public and private space. This led to the collaborative project with Chris Berry and Rachel Moore PUBLIC SPACE MEDIA SPACE (2013). In EX-CENTRIC CINEMA: GIORGIO AGAMBEN AND FILM ARCHAEOLOGY (2016), Janet pursued cinema’s part in the becoming-human as an event never accomplished but always underway, a production that also gives definition to what is considered the inhuman.


Janet has worked on a number of collaborative projects, developing the concept and practice of film archaeology in wake of the advent of digital media. MEDIACITY: DIGITAL STORYTELLING THROUGH BBC ARCHIVES (2008-10) examined how the BBC’s televisual archive could be accessed and repurposed after the BBC's move to Salford. BAZAAR CINEMA: PIRACY AND YOUNG PEOPLE'S RIGHTS IN LONDON AND MUMBAI (2012-14) worked with young disaffected people, repurposing archived film to insert themselves into history, and lead to the creation of Cutting East film festival.


She has also written about art, film and time in the work of Chris Marker, Rachel Whiteread, Rania Stephens, Mika Taanila, Simon Starling and Joseph Cornell. She is a member of the Centre for Film and Ethics at Queen Mary and is currently Chair of the Department of Film Studies.

Professor of Film Studies,

Queen Mary,

University of London

Janet Harbord


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Bonnie Evans is interested in the history of film and its relationship to scientific and artistic change in the twentieth and twenty-first century.  Her work explores the way that psychological norms have been established, and the role of film in this process.


Her 2017 book THE METAMORPHOSIS OF AUTISM: A HISTORY OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT IN BRITAIN (Manchester University Press) explored how autism came to achieve such significance within the psychological sciences over the course of the twentieth century.  It considered how political changes drove new approaches to child development and why this led to a ‘metamorphosis’ in the meaning of autism in the 1960s and 1970s. 


Her work has always explored interdisciplinary themes, particularly examining how different media can be employed in historical research. She co-founded the interdisciplinary Health and Welfare Research Group at CRASSH, Cambridge.  She has diverse intellectual expertise, holding a BA from Sussex University in the History of Art, an MSc in Economic and Social History from Oxford University, and a PhD from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University.  


She has lectured in the history of child sciences and eugenics, and has explored the role of documentary film within this.  In addition to her academic work, she has worked as a policy and media advisor. She has spoken at the UK Department for Education and has advised at the Institute for Public Policy Research.  She has consulted for the BBC and other media outlets and has appeared on BBC television.


More information about Bonnie Evans' publications and public engagement activity can be found on her Queen Mary University profile page.

Department of History, Queen Mary, University of London

Bonnie Evans

PHD researcher

PHD researcher

Wellcome Trust PhD Candidate in Film Practice, Queen Mary, University of London

Alex Widdowson

Alex Widdowson is a Wellcome Trust funded PhD student in the Department of Film Studies at Queen Mary University of London. His practice-based research attempts to deepen knowledge about autism through animated documentary production. 


Alex is interested in developing ethical strategies to represent individuals with autism through collaborative film practice and reflexive mechanisms that encourage audience scrutiny.


Alex has been using animation in a documentary context since 2011, focusing on the medium's potential to evoke subjective experiences of disability, neurodiversity and psychology. He directed Music & Clowns (2018), a multi award-winning short film that addresses Down syndrome. An earlier film, Critical Living (2017), explores the legacy of anti-psychiatry in contemporary therapeutic communities, developed while artist in residence at the Philadelphia Association. Alex partnered with Vice UK to release Escapology: The Art of Addiction (2017) which lead to over half a million online views. He has delivered papers at two of the Society for Animation Studies annual conferences. In 2018 he published the article, ‘Animating Documentary Modes’ in The International Journal of Film and Media Arts (Vol 3, No 1). He is an alumnus of the Royal College of Art’s MA in Animation and the AniDox:Lab at the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. For more information on Alex’s practice-based research, please visit: www.DocumentaryAnimationDiscourse.com.


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Kate Adams (MBE) and team at Project Art Works (Southeast) will bring significant expertise to the research project by providing access and mentorship. Adams co-founded Project Art Works to promote new, practical and philosophical approaches to the meaningful involvement of people with learning disabilities with visual art and the art world, working with artists, galleries (FACT, Tate Liverpool, De La Warr Pavilion, States and Spaces), psychologists, educators, children and adults. Project Art Works is uniquely positioned to bridge the social care and cultural sectors in ways that promote sustainable relationships and bring people with complex needs into the heart of social, cultural life and visual art activity.


The Project Art Works team will attend meetings during the earlier stages of the project and will contribute extensively to the co-curation of an exhibition and the building of a Vimeo channel with participants in years 3 and 4, via a workshop format.

For more information on Project Art Works, click here.

Project Art Works

Kate Adams (MBE)

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Dr Sebastian Gaigg is a researcher at the Autism Research Centre, and Senior Lecturer in Psychology, at City University. Dr Gaigg specialises has published extensively on aspects of embodiment and affect in autism, and temporal dynamics of speech and gesture.


Dr Gaigg will provide expert guidance and consultancy to the project by attending meetings, ensuring the efficacy of the research and that all methods adhere to established ethical guidelines. He will work intensively with the project team during year 2 over a six month period, to co-host (with Eastwood) a thematic workshop focusing on social dynamics, eye tracking and event boundaries, and to attend the film set devising scenarios and participatory methods during film set-up and shoot. He will in addition author a journal article arising from the research.

For more information on the Autism Research Group at City University, click here.

Senior Lecturer, Psychology, City University

Sebastian Gaigg

Dr Damian Milton, project consultant, is a member of the Transforming Educational Practice in Autism research project at Birmingham University, and part-time Lecturer in Intellectual and Developmental Disability at the Tizzard Centre, University of Kent. Milton is an autism scholar whose focus is the meaningful participation of people with autism in the research process. He has unique access to groups and individuals within the autistic community and is Chair of the Participatory Autism Research Collective (PARC). He works part-time for the National Autistic Society (NAS) as Head of Autism Knowledge and Expertise and sits on the scientific and advisory committee for Research Autism.


Dr Milton brings extensive expertise in participatory practice in autism research. He will help coordinate and co-deliver the workshops in years 1 and 2, and he will also act as an on-set advisor in year 3. In year 4 Dr Milton will co-organise an event involving members of NAS and PARC to respond to a discussion paper on models of participation in autism research co-authored by Eastwood and Harbord reflecting on the process and suggesting further steps for the development of this work.

Transforming Educational Practice in Autism, Birmingham University

Damian Milton

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Elhum Shakerifar is a BFI Vision 3 Awardee and BAFTA nominated producer and film programmer, working across disciplines on the intersection between the personal and the political. Her film credits include award-winning features The Runner (2013) and A Syrian Love Story (2015). She is a winner of a Cinema for Peace Justice Award and was nominated for Best Documentary at the British Independent Film Award. Her work has been broadcast on BBC, NHK, NRK, DR, SVT and screened at festivals including Berlinale, IDFA and CPH:DOX. She is currently producing films supported by BFI Film Fund, Sundance, Tribeca, BRITDOC and ACE. Elhum is Programme Advisor for London Film Festival and Associate Curator Film for Shubbak, a festival of contemporary Arab culture. Elhum was part of the British Council Cultural Leadership scheme in 2011.


Elhum will oversee the documentary film production and the realisation of the immersive 360 VR film project, working closely with an experienced production manager and a team of film professionals, ensuring that professional standards are maintained across platforms.

For more information on Hakawati, please click here.

Producer and film programmer, Hakawati

Elhum Shakerifar

Background image:

Le Moindre Geste, Fernand Deligny (1971)


Learn about the project's main research questions, exploring the history of autism and cinema and its future potential.

Read about ongoing activity surrounding the project and how you could contribute to the project.