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Katy McGahan

Katy is our curator specialising in documentary film. She has been with the BFI since 2001. Her main specialism is the history of the British documentary from the 1920s to the present. Other areas of specialism include the history of official films, in particular the work of the Central Office of Information from 1946 to its closure in 2012; films used as evidence in Courts of Trial, and the history of health issues on film: she produced the BFI DVD release The Joy of Sex Education (2008).

Katy has contributed chapters to the anthologies Shadows of Progress: Documentary Films of Post-War Britain (Palgrave/BFI, 2010), and Ealing Revisited (Palgrave/BFI, 2012). She regularly contributes short essays to BFI DVD booklets, Screenonline and the Mediatheque.

Articles by Katy McGahan

1 - 10 of 11


  • 10 great but forgotten TV documentaries of the 1950s and 60s

    Millions watched them on TV at the time, but these pioneering documentaries have hardly been seen since. Now’s the time for their rediscovery.

    Tuesday, November 24, 2015


  • 1930s hidden-camera footage is first film used as evidence in UK courts

    A mysterious film can leads to a remarkable discovery in legal history.

    Friday, July 24, 2015


  • 10 great modern British documentaries directed by women

    Louise Osmond is one of a number of distinctive female documentary-makers to have emerged in recent British cinema. As her latest film, the racing underdog story Dark Horse, goes on release, we look at some of their finest achievements.

    Thursday, April 9, 2015


  • 10 great British films directed by women

    With Joanna Hogg’s third film, Exhibition, confirming her as among our best new directors, we look back at some of the finest films directed by women in the UK.

    Thursday, April 24, 2014


  • 10 great films about sex

    As Lars von Trier’s Nymph()maniac arrives in cinemas and on the BFI Player, we survey sex on film with a list of some of cinema’s naughtiest classics.

    Friday, February 21, 2014


  • From the Magazine

    The essay film

    Andrew Tracy explores the characteristics that have come to define this most elastic of forms, while eight more contributors highlight a dozen influential milestone essay films, from Jean Vigo to Chris Marker.

    Saturday, August 3, 2013

    Deep Focus

  • Sheffield stoked by Jarvis Cocker and The Big Melt

    Jarvis Cocker led a blazing live soundtrack to BFI archive footage of our steelmaking past on the opening night of Sheffield Doc/Fest 2013.

    Thursday, June 13, 2013


  • The joys of analogue

    As digital technology takes over, so our affection for analogue grows. Joseph Ernst’s short film Londoners delights in the textures of archaic camera technology to document street life in the modern capital.

    Thursday, May 16, 2013


  • Steel and the early films of Penny Woolcock #2

    Curator Catherine McGahan explains how the steel industry documentary When the Dog Bites found filmmaker Penny Woolcock moving in a new, more experimental direction.

    Wednesday, February 13, 2013


  • The Grierson Awards 40 years on

    The 40th edition of the Grierson Awards revealed the modern British documentary in fine fettle. But what would John Grierson himself have made of the contenders?

    Saturday, November 24, 2012


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