IIt’s no insult: the Bradford Movie Makers proudly call themselves a bunch of amateurs. Since 1932, the members have made virtually zero-budget films with shaky production values and acting of a quality that often results in tender mickey mouse takes between them. With this warm and rather wonderful documentary, Kim Hopkins finds comedy in their idiosyncratic passion without ever being mean or mocking. A Bunch of Amateurs is a thoughtful film about making movies, and also has some surprisingly deep things to say about camaraderie, community, and male friendship — though there are a few women among the aging members of the club.
There are also great personalities. Colin, a retired carpenter in the 80s, is a veteran member who remembers the good old days when the organization had a years long waiting list to join. In recent years the numbers have dwindled and Bradford Movie Makers are on top: up to £300 in the bank and five years behind rent at the crumbling clubhouse, where every Monday night you’ll find members making cups of tea and tossing their magnum opus. Colin, whose wife lives in a nursing home for people with dementia, is waging a war against graffiti and the trash dumped outside the clubhouse by dumpsters.
And then there’s Harry, also in his 80s, who we watch recreate a scene from Oklahoma! – for heartbreaking reasons. Phil is the club’s enfant terrible, a lascar of a boy in his 40s who’s a bit of a curse and does shorts like The Haunted Turnip and the controversial Nice Jam. (“It’s not about drugs!” he insists.) Phil takes care of his handicapped brother. “Maybe making a short is not important in the universe,” he says. “But if I give up, what is my purpose in life?” You could imagine a BBC sitcom series inspired by this. Give Bill Nighy a few years and he would be perfect to play Colin.