Mike Dibb

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Mike Dibb
Michael Dibb

(1940-04-29) 29 April 1940 (age 81)
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin
OccupationDocumentary filmmaker
Notable work
Ways of Seeing (1972)
The Spirit of Lorca (1986)
The Miles Davis Story (2001)
ChildrenSaul Dibb, Sam Dibb, Linda Dibb

Mike Dibb (born Wharfedale, Bradford, West Yorkshire, 29 April 1940)[1] is an English documentary filmmaker. In almost half a century of making films mainly for television – on subjects including cinema, literature, art, jazz, sport and popular culture – "he has defined and re-defined not only the televisual art documentary genre but has been able to make moving image pieces as a form of self portraiture".[2] Dibb has made many acclaimed films, including on Federico García Lorca, C. L. R. James, Astor Piazzolla, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Barbara Thompson and other notable subjects. In the words of Sukhdev Sandhu in The Guardian: "In a career spanning almost five decades, it's possible Dibb has shaped more ideas and offered more ways of seeing than any other TV documentarian of his generation."[3] Mike Dibb is the father of film director Saul Dibb.


After graduating from Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, with a BA (Hons) degree, Mike Dibb joined BBC TV in 1963. He worked as an Assistant Film Editor/Film Editor in the BBC Film Department until 1967, and then joined the Music and Arts Department.

Between 1967 and 1971 he directed numerous films on a range of subjects for various BBC series, including The Movies, Moviemakers at the NFT, Canvas, The Craftsmen, New Release, Omnibus. In 1972 he produced a four-part series of 30-minute films called Ways of Seeing, now regarded not only as "a landmark work of British arts broadcasting, but as a key moment in the democratisation of art education".[3] Scripted by writer John Berger, Ways of Seeing won a BAFTA Award for Best Specialised Series, and was the basis of a bestselling book designed by Richard Hollis, jointly published by the BBC and Penguin Books in 1972.[4]

In 1976 Dibb made a film based on Beyond a Boundary, the classic book by C. L. R. James,[5] and on 23 February 1979 the BBC broadcast his film based on the 1973 book The Country and the City by Raymond Williams.[6]

In 1983, Dibb left the staff of the BBC to work independently. He joined Third Eye Productions, a company formed by several other ex-members of the BBC Music and Arts department, including Barrie Gavin, Peter West and Geoff Haydon. After 1986 Dibb began to make many of his films through his own company, Dibb Directions Ltd (DD).

The many notable documentaries he has made include The Spirit of Lorca, about poet Federico García Lorca (in collaboration with Lorca's biographer Ian Gibson, 1986; Gold Award NY Festival of Film and TV), and What’s Cuba Playing At? (on the Afro-Spanish roots of Cuban music; BBC Arena, 1985), Tango Maestro – The life and music of Astor Piazzolla (2005, BBC), and Keith Jarrett – The Art of Improvisation (2005, Channel 4). With Stephen Frears in 1994 he co-directed Typically British, a BFI/Channel 4 documentary on the history of British cinema.

In November 2011, Dibb participated in a Masterclass in conversation with David A. Bailey as part of the International Curators Forum two-day intervention at the Arnolfini in Bristol.

His two-hour film The Miles Davis Story (DD and Channel 4 Television) won the Royal Philharmonic Society TV award and an International Emmy award for arts documentary of the year 2001.[7]

Dibb's most recent film, Barbara Thompson: Playing Against Time, is a 75-minute "musical-medico" documentary film "about Parkinson's disease seen through the prism of music", chronicling the celebrated saxophonist's fight to keep performing despite having developed the condition.[8] The film was first transmitted on BBC Four on 19 February 2012.[9][10]

His first book, Spellwell (2010, Muswell Press), written in rhyming couplets and illustrated by Roddy Maude-Roxby, was a playful guide to the idiosyncrasies of English-language spelling.[11][12]

A major online retrospective of his work A Listening Eye was curated by Matthew Harle and Colm McAuliffe for the Whitechapel Gallery in East London, running from January till March 2021.[13]

Select filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Mike Dibb at IMDb
  2. ^ AFTERIMAGE: Engagements with the Cinematic, Arc magazine.
  3. ^ a b Sukhdev Sandhu, "Ways of Seeing opened our eyes to visual culture", The Guardian, 7 September 2012.
  4. ^ Juliette Kristensen, "Making Ways of Seeing: A Conversation with Mike Dibb and Richard Hollis", Journal of Visual Culture, August 2012, vol. 11, no. 2, pp. 181–195.
  5. ^ "Director Mike Dibb introducing his film Beyond a Boundary", Every Cook Can Govern: Documenting the life, impact & works of CLR James.
  6. ^ Fred Inglis, Raymond Williams, Psychology Press, 1998 (ISBN 9780415187169), p. 269.
  7. ^ Jason Deans, "Norton in Emmy triumph", The Guardian, 20 November 2001.
  8. ^ Hilary Rose and Steven Rose, "Beats and the brain", The Lancet, 28 January 2012.
  9. ^ "BBC finally fix transmission date for Barbara Thompson documentary 'Playing against Time'", Colin Richardson's blog, 5 February 2012.
  10. ^ "Barbara Thompson: Playing Against Time", Media Centre, BBC.
  11. ^ Spellwell at Muswell Press.
  12. ^ "Spellwell" video on YouTube.
  13. ^ A Listening Eye:The Films of Mike Dibb. Whitechapel Gallery, January–March 2021.
  14. ^ "Personally Speaking: A Long Conversation with Stuart Hall", Media Education Foundation.
  15. ^ "The Miles Davis Story" at Mike Dibb website.
  16. ^ "In Conversation with Stuart Hall", 1986.
  17. ^ "Beyond a Boundary", via YouTube.

External links[edit]