A Bunch of Amateurs  (12A) |Close-Up Film Review

Dir. Kim Hopkins, UK, 2022, 95 mins

Cast:  Bradford Movie Makers

Review by Carol Allen

The title refers to members of Bradford Movie Makers, a largely working class amateur film making club that has been going since 1932.  And not only is the club and its now crumbling premises getting old but so are the loyal members, most of whom appear to be in their seventies or older and some of whom are coping with partners who are suffering from dementia.  The scenes involving two members, both with seriously disabled wives, are particularly touching.

Kim Hopkins, director of this documentary, has chosen to discard the idea of formal interviews and voice over narrator and tell the story using the “fly on the wall” technique of the camera just following the members around as they talk about the club and themselves and that doesn’t always give the story the narrative power it might otherwise have had.

Some of the characters though emerge strongly, particularly the elderly man whose dream is to recreate the opening scene from Oklahoma with himself as the hero, Curly.   The fact that he can’t ride a horse is a bit of a worry, but the ingenuity he and the other members put into trying to help him achieve his ambition by using contemporary filming techniques is impressive. 

So are the premises.   The club has its own charming though now somewhat shabby little cinema and a studio space for filming.  And the members own some impressive kit, which they keep at home.  A state of the art editing suite, a nice little electronic keyboard and what look like top notch cameras and recording equipment. So it’s not quite clear why the club is going broke.  Don’t they charge members a subscription?  Could the members who can afford this lovely equipment not chip in a few bob?  

As the club hasn’t paid any rent for five years, it’s perhaps not surprising the landlord hasn’t done much upkeep on the building, which is now in bad repair.   One of the younger and rare female members comes up with an event idea to raise funds but that doesn’t really solve the problem.  And then of course along comes Covid and lockdown, which look like being the final nails in the club’s coffin.  Or are they?

We don’t really see enough of the club’s actual finished films to judge their quality, though from the short clips we do see, the members insistence on doing their own acting as well as directing, camera, sound and other tasks could be seen as a mistake.  Technically, as in a clip featuring Bradford’s own Superman or the aforesaid Oklahoma sequence, their work is impressive but the acting is a bit on the ropey side and one wonders why they didn’t call on the services of one of the local amateur dramatic groups, rather than trying to do everything in house.

This is a great story with some lovely characters but it does ramble along rather and could have had more impact with a stronger structure.