It’s not an insult: the Bradford Movie Makers proudly call themselves a bunch of amateurs. Since 1932, members have been making virtually zero-budget films with rickety production values and acting of a quality that often results in fond mickey-taking among themselves. 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 film-making and has some unexpectedly deep things to say too about camaraderie, community and male friendship – though there are a couple of women in the club’s ageing membership.
There are some big personalities too. Colin, a retired carpenter in his 80s, is a veteran member who remembers the good old days, when the organisation had a waiting list of several years to join. In recent years numbers have dwindled and Bradford Movie Makers is on its uppers: down to 300 quid in the bank and five years behind on the rent for the crumbling clubhouse, where every Monday night you’ll find members brewing cups of tea and screening their magnum opuses. Colin, whose wife lives in a dementia care home, is waging a war on graffiti, and the rubbish dumped outside the clubhouse by fly-tippers.
Then there’s Harry, also in his 80s, who we watch recreating a scene from Oklahoma! – for reasons that are heartbreaking. Phil is the club’s enfant terrible, a slip of a lad in his 40s who’s a bit sweary and makes shorts such as The Haunted Turnip and controversial Nice Jam. (“It’s not about drugs!” he insists.) Phil is a carer to his disabled brother. “Maybe making a short film isn’t important in the universe,” he says. “But if I give up on that, what’s my purpose in life?” You could imagine a BBC sitcom series inspired by this. Give Bill Nighy a few years and he’d be perfect to play Colin.