SOAS University of London

Department of Anthropology and Sociology

London in Motion, Urban Documentary Film Workshop

Parliament Square with Life Vests

The workshop is designed to be a mixture of theory and practice with special emphasis on refugees, urban theory, cityscapes, and new migration. The workshop will produce 10 short films. During the workshop students will learn to apply the basic principles and tools of documentary film making to research/project needs.

This is an experimental course. It aims to examine how ‘thinking’ with, and ‘through’, images can produce insight with regard to certain anthropological and sociological questions. In the process deepening the medium’s analytical power and enhancing its audience reception. To this end we will examine how a range of media may be utilised to produce rich insights and creatively satisfying outcomes. Together we will develop short narratives about contemporary London. Great emphasis will be placed throughout on teamwork, and critical feedback.

The core objective of this project is to explore in an inter-disciplinary manner various new, cheap and easily accessible visual technologies as tools for urban research and teaching in urban studies. We choose film as a tool because it has a unique capacity to reveal the personal, anonymous, and collective routines of daily life in cities.

We will focus on the experiences and impact of refugees and new immigration: How has London changed its looks and appearances, how have refugees and new migration altered everyday life in (some parts of) the city, how do refugees and new migrants live, work, and move in and through the city, and what is their own experience and perception of living in a global city like London?

Through the documentary workshop we want to explore the idea that there are different (but also similar and overlapping) parallel ‘Londons’: immigrants inhabit and imagine London in their own manner, creating specific networks and mental maps of the city, and interacting with other Londoners in culturally specific ways.


To provide an overview of documentary theory and practice, while involved in telling a contemporary London story through film. The challenge will be to see how film enriches and provides research insights, while at the same time creating new ways of experiencing that research.

Key films and key texts will be viewed and discussed. The course is innovative in its ambition to explore the documentary and research possibilities of new, ‘democratising’ and affordable visual technologies. The course will explore the importance and relevance of these technologies for filmmaking and research in urban environments.


LiDF Logo

The workshop will be mirrored by a similar workshop in Paris and the end products will be exchanged between the two cities, as well as being screened at the London International Documentary Festival and at SOAS.

Schedule ( term 1 and 2)

  • Saturday 12th January 2020 (All students)
  • Saturday 19th January 2020 (Group 1-15 student 5 teams)
  • sunday 20th October 2020 (Group 2 - 15 students / 5 teams)
  • Saturday 16th November 2020 (Group 1 - 15 students / 5 teams)
  • Sunday 17th November 2020 (Group 2 - 15 students / 5 teams)
  • Saturday 23rd November 2020 (all students)

Application Form

Application should be sent to Dr Stephen Hughes at by 5pm on 9th October 2020 and successful applicants will be notified by 5pm of 10th October 2020.  Successful applicants will be expected to attend the first session with ideas for films. The ideas will be discussed by the group and the 10 best subjects selected.

London in Motion Application Form (msword; 14kb)