Since then he has returned to Uganda and Southern Sudan to make The Final Betrayal
for Al Jazeera English and a radio documentary on the peace process for BBC Radio
4’s flagship international affairs strand Crossing Continents. His most recent work
was to film, produce and direct a major two-part series presented by Rageh Omaar.
America’s New Frontline, transmitted by AlJazeera English in September 2009, was
a highly acclaimed examination of the new US military Command AFRICOM, and America’s
strategy for Africa under Obama.
For six years he worked full time as reporter and presenter on Channel 4’s Dispatches,
responsible for such award-winning investigations as Secrets of the Gaul (winner
RTS award for best current affairs programme) which finally located the wreck of
the trawler The Gaul lost mysteriously in arctic seas 60 miles north of Norway. That
film forced the government to agree to a public inquiry. He also reported the Dispatches
special Loss of the Marchioness (winner “Indie” award for Best News and Current Affairs
programme). That film led to the re-opening of the inquest and the public inquiry
into the deaths of the 51 victims. Before joining Dispatches as its first on-screen
reporter he reported the Network First investigation which first revealed the extent
of human testing of chemical and biological weapons at Porton Down.
Seven years ago he won the Harold Wincott “business programme of the year” award
for Hamleys: A Real Toy Story, an observational film which followed the crisis in
the fortunes of the world-famous toy store. He narrated, directed, and filmed an
observational documentary about the government’s controversial Better Hospital Food
project (for C4), transmitted in 2002. He continues to write occasionally for newspapers
including The Observer and the Guardian and such outlets as BBC News Online.
BACKGROUND – Callum Macrae grew up in Nigeria and Scotland. He studied painting
at Edinburgh College of Art for five years, was a dustman for two years, ran a pirate
radio station for six months and was a teacher for seven years. He was a member of
the Official Edinburgh Festival’s governing Council and President of Edinburgh and
District Trades Council. For two years he produced a weekly satirical cartoon strip
for the Times Educational Supplement. He then became a full-time writer working
initially for a variety of newspapers and magazines including the Scotsman, the Herald
and the Guardian. He joined The Observer as Scottish correspondent, where he stayed
for three years winning the Campaigning Journalist of the Year award in 1992, That
year he moved into television, presenting and reporting on Ch 4’s weekly magazine
programmes Hard News, and investigative legal series The Brief.
Callum Macrae co-founded Outsider Television with Alex Sutherland in 1993.
He has reported, directed and executive-produced a large number of television programmes,
including some thirty Dispatches, and has made films for BBC’s Panorama, ITV’s Network
First and FIVE’s Stranger than Fiction. He has worked across several genres including
current affairs, history, science and business. He writes regularly for newspapers
and periodicals, and has acted as a script doctor for both Channel Four and FIVE
and provided editorial consultancy and voice–overs.
His output has ranged from serious investigations to observational documentaries
to closely argued polemics, and he has won several awards.
In the last five years his projects have included an Unreported World on the Ivory
Coast for Channel 4, which he filmed and directed from both sides of the civil war,
(described as: “One of the bravest and most gripping films ever to be buried away
in the schedules” by the Guardian, and “remarkable courage…tense powerful stuff’
by The Mail on Sunday).
He directed, narrated and filmed, My Body My Business for Channel Four,
More about Callum Macrae
The Guardian commented: “At last – an intelligent,articulate film about sex workers”He
spent some weeks in Iraq directing an observational documentary Life and Death in
the War Zone about a US military hospital for PBS in the States as part of their
flagship science series, Nova. Since then he has directed and filmed an Unreported
World on the civil war in Uganda – described as ‘shocking and heartrending in equal
measure’ by the Observer – and a disturbing observational film about Gypsy child
weddings in Romania for BBC2, which caused much controversy after its screening as
part of the recent international Gypsy Film Festival in London.
He wrote, directed and narrated two docs for FIVE. “Fly me!” The History of the
Flight Attendant – was an authoritative but mischievous look at 75 years of sexual
politics, described as “fascinating and outrageous” by the Scotsman. In a similar
vein “Stranger than Fiction: The Real Flying Saucers” told the amazing but true story
of how the CIA invented aliens from outer space as a cover story for their experiments
with genuine flying saucer technology they stole from the Nazis. The Express described
it as “this absorbing and sometimes hilarious documentary.”
His more recent films include Iraq’s Mission Billions – a Dispatches investigation
filmed in the US and Iraq, into Coalition misuse of billions of dollars of Iraqi
funds. It was described as “a mind-boggling Dispatches” by the Times, ‘ this important
investigation’ by the Guardian, and ‘this impressive film…and affecting report,’
by the Sunday Times. It was a finalist for the 2006 One World award and the 2007
RTS awards. It won the 2007 Sony Impact Award at the Rory Peck Awards
He spent a year wirh the BBC1’s flagship undercover investigative series “Whistleblower:
– and directed a headline-grabbing expose of lying, dissembling and miss-selling
in Barclays Bank. He then produced a film in Haiti for the BBC as part of the Cooking
in the Danger Zone strand and visited Senegal twice – he produced and reported special
report for Ch4 News and a Witness for Al Jazeera English.
Last year he directed a Panorama investigation On Whose Orders into serious allegations
of prisoner abuse and unlawful killing by British troops in Iraq. The film generated
considerable controversy and the BBC had to go to court to overturn a gagging order
to broadcast it. (The Sun ran a full-page story denouncing the “Baghdad Broadcasting
He covered the war in Northern Uganda for the BBC Two documentary “A Day of War’”
and his experiences filming a massacre on the Sudan/Uganda border were featured on
a BBC 4/2 documentary, “Frontline”. His footage was shown all over the world.
He produced, directed and shot the film which opened the Sweeney Investigates series
on BBC 2, an expose of Madonna’s Kabbalah sect. It was described as “a devastating
indictment” by the Sunday Times. He then filmed and directed a Panorama investigation
which exposed the crushing claustrophobia of the “Postcode Poverty” trap.
In the last year Callum Macrae has directed and presented a number of films which
have made headlines and won awards. He directed Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields
(ITN for Channel 4) – containing shocking revelations about the Sri Lankan government
slaughter of as many as 40,000 civilians at end of the civil war in 2009. Shown on
TV stations and screened at events around the world, the film has had a huge impact
and has been raised in parliaments worldwide including India, the UK and Australia.
It has been nominated for number of awards including the RTS, Broadcast and Bafta.
The film was also screened at the international Human Rights Film Festival in Geneva
in March 2011.
He presented from Japan and location-produced a film on the Japanese Earthquake and
Tsunami which was shown in the UK on Channel 4 and the US as part of the flagship
It won two of the most prestigious broadcast awards in the US. The American Association
for the Advancement of Science Award for the best long-form science documentary of
the year and the Dupont-Columba prize for Broadcast Journalism (described as the
Pulitzer Prize for broadcast journalism and awarded by the same organisation). See
background video here
To make the film Callum Macrae and John D McHugh travelled secretly into South Kordofan
defying a Khartoum imposed no-fly zone to find evidence of the bombing of civilians
in the Nuba Mountains. There,in a world exclusive,Callum interviewed the leader
of the rebel SPLA-N forces, Abdel Aziz Al-Hilu
In October Outsider made a 10 minute short for Channel 4 News about Lt Col Nicholas
Mercer, who was the British Army’s top lawyer in Iraq at the time of the coalition
invasion in 2003. It was Col Mercer’s job to make sure UK forces obeyed international
laws of war. But when he tried to prevent the abuse of Iraqi prisoners and ensure
that UK forces acted lawfully he was blocked, vilified and silenced by his superiors
in the MOD. In this exclusive interview he describes what happened.
At the beginning of the year Callum also spent a couple of weeks in Los Angeles directing
and filming some of the early events in the trial of Dr Conrad Murray over the death
of Michael Jackson for a documentary on the doctor’s trial which has been transmitted
around the world.
Callum Macrae has recently completed work as Director on Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields:
War Crimes unpunished, a follow up to the award-winning documentary Sri Lanka’s
Killing Fields made by ITN for Channel 4 . The first film, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields has been shown and acclaimed around the world – and has been nominated for the 2012
Nobel Peace Prize. This film made by (ITN for Channel 4) – contained shocking revelations
about the Sri Lankan government slaughter of as many as 40,000 civilians at end of
the civil war in 2009. Shown on TV stations and screened at events around the world,
the film has had a huge impact and has been raised in parliaments worldwide including
India, the UK and Australia.
The followup has created even more controversy with its revelations causing uproar
in the Indian Parliament and the programme has been credited with causing India to
change it policy on support for a UN resolution on Sri Lanka. Callum has written
newspaper articles including for The Independent on Sri Lanka and the Huffington
post on Joseph Kony as well as on Sri Lankas civil war