The Team

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Professor of Film Practice,

Queen Mary,

University of London

Steven Eastwood

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.


His second feature film, ISLAND (2018), had its international premiere at Rotterdam Film Festival 2018 and was released in UK cinemas. His first feature film Buried Land (2010) premiered at Tribeca film festival. Recent solo & group exhibitions include Fabrica Brighton, La Ferme du Buisson Paris, and Blackwood Toronto. His documentary Those Who Are Jesus (2001) was nominated for a Grierson Award.


Steven is the Head of Film Practice at Queen Mary, University of London.

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Professor of Film Studies,

Queen Mary,

University of London

Janet Harbord

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.


She is a member of the Centre for Film and Ethics at Queen Mary and is currently Chair of the Department of Film Studies.

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Bonnie Evans

Senior Researcher,

Queen Mary,

University of London

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. 


Bonnie co-founded the interdisciplinary Health and Welfare Research Group at CRASSH, Cambridge. 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.

Vicki Thornton

Vicki Thornton

Project Manager

Queen Mary,

University of London

Vicki Thornton has around eighteen years experience managing complex arts projects, exhibitions and film productions for galleries and institutions including White Cube, The Museum of Modern Art, Tate, Hayward Gallery, the Royal Academy and Times Square Alliance and for high profile visual artists such as Isaac Julien and Chris Ofili.


As a filmmaker, Vicki has also received considerable recognition. In 2016, she was selected for the British Council, Sheffield Doc/Fest and Docudays International Human Rights Documentary Festival’s DocWorks UA/UK development programme for emerging documentary directors. In 2017, she was selected for the British Council's SWAP UK / Ukraine programme. Her films have been selected for festivals and markets including When East Meets West, Trieste, Italy (2019); Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Czech Republic (2017); Sheffield Doc/Fest, UK (2017); Docudays UA, Kyiv, Ukraine; PÖFF Black Nights, Tallinn, Estonia; DOKLeipzig, Germany; Clermont-Ferrand, France (all 2016); and Experimenta/ 59th BFI London Film Festival (2015) and received the KWA Sound Production Prize (Docudays UA, Kyiv, 2017) and the Screen International Award (PÖFF Black Nights, Tallinn, 2016). 


Vicki is currently in the final stages of a PhD in Film Practice at Queen Mary, University of London.

Alex Widdowson

PhD Candidate, Queen Mary, University of London

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:


Project Art Works

Kate Adams (MBE)

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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.

Senior Lecturer, Psychology, City University

Sebastian Gaigg

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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.

Transforming Educational Practice in Autism, Birmingham University

Damian Milton

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.

Producer and film programmer, Hakawati

Elhum Shakerifar

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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.

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.

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Copyright 2020 Steven Eastwood and Janet Harbord


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