Professor William Raban

Profile image of Professor of Film

Professor of Film

London College of Communication


William Raban is an artist filmmaker who has exhibited worldwide in both art and film contexts. Initially known for his landscape and expanded cinema films of the 1970s, Raban's landscape interests, were framed in the 80s towards a more historical and socio-political context: the history of London and the Thames. Reminiscent of Humphrey Jennings' wartime films, Raban's films from the 90s onwardslook at the island of Britain and its people, in the context of the global economy and the effects of urban change.

Commissioned by Acme Studios 72-82interrogating the archive: the fallibility of memory (2014) has been screened extensively and was part of Raban’s retrospective at the 2015 Oberhausen Film Festival.

Time and the Wave (2013) addresses the English obsession with nostalgic displays of pageantry, contrasted with political activism against the corrosive power of late capitalism.  It has been screened in cinemas and shown as a continuous installation at the Mercosul Biennale, Brazil 2013.

The 3-screen site-specific installation Duchamp’s Dissent was commissioned for the Tate Tanks opening programme (2012) and continues an investigation into how concepts of cubo-futurism can be transliterated into a contemporary digital installation.

Commissioned by the Museum of London, The Houseless Shadow (2011) is a nighttime ethnography exposing the plight of the homeless in central London that formed the end piece to the Dickens and London exhibition at the Museum of London December 2011 - June 2012. 

Research interests

Reflexivity: film as language of thought, expanded cinema, documentary and ethnographic film.

Research statement

Raban sees the film screen as both the window for external projection as well as a mirror through which the process of film construction is reflected and the space where spectators can become aware of their engagement. 

Raban’s career in the early 1970s developed through the London Filmmakers’ Co-op with structural filmmaking and expanded cinema. The opening programme of the Tanks at Tate Modern (2012) recognized the significance of Raban’s contribution to expanded cinema by commissioning a Filmaktion event (16 October – 21 October 2012) in which Raban was a key contributor showing early multi-screen films and the Tate commissioned site-specific installation Duchamp’s Dissent

All his films adopt an experimental method in terms of their formal construction that is combined with a rigorous factual approach to the subject material.

For the last 30 years, Raban’s research has been largely concerned with making films in the visual essay and poetic documentary form.  London and the River Thames have been two consistent themes in his work since the feature length Thames Film (1986) Under the Tower trilogy (1992-6)

MM (2002) About Now MMX (2010) and Time and the Wave (2013).  Raban’s films seek a dialogical rapprochement with the audience where passive consumption is resisted in favour of encouraging the audience to become active participants in the construction of meaning.           


Current students and thesis titles

Alessandra Ferrini, How does expanded documentary contribute to the understanding of the historiographic potential of real-time news?

Margareta Kern, Digital Ocean: how can the language of ‘essay film’ be expanded to make visible forms of extrastatecraft that lie under the surface of our everyday perception?

Onyeka IgweUnbossed and Unbound: How can critical proximity activate the Imperial Archive? 

Iana Stepanova, What Collectivist and Participatory Approaches to Filmmaking need to be applied to investigate Film as Public Space?

Jaime PeschieraThe Eye that Cries: How might autoethnography investigate aphasia in Peru’s post-colonial memory debate?

Carl GrinterHow does surprise transform anxiety to create meaning and value in the design, production and experiential consumption of social-immersive media?

Mario Abou Hamad, De-essentialising the Syrian: can Physical Cinema transgress reductionist discourse?

Completed students and thesis titles

Karel DoingAmbient Poetics and Critical Posthumanism in Expanded Cinema (completed 2017)

Julie Marsh, How can the moving image be used to materialise the physical essence of place? (completed 2017)

Rohit Dasgupta, Digital Queer Spaces: Interrogating Identity, Belonging and Nationalism in Contemporary India. (Completed 2016)

Rosalind Fowler, PhD. Experimental Ethnography and Senses of Place – Filming Performative Folk Traditions, Place and Belonging in Britain (Completed 2013)

Brad Butler, PhD. How can structural film expand the language of Experimental Ethnography? (Completed 2009)

Nina Simões, PhD. Rehearsing Reality, Land Rights and Culture amongst the Landless in Brazil. (Completed 2008)

Selected research outputs