With the death of cinema having been debated repeatedly over the last few years, award-winning British documentary A Bunch of Amateurs seems timely.
Surviving since the 1930s, Bradford Movie Makers Club is a shell of its former self. Once a thriving institution, it’s now down to a few aging members who meet every Monday in the rotting clubhouse. Director Kim Hopkins observes them just before the pandemic as they try to keep the lights on in an organisation that is about more than cinema.
The sound of teacups and banter are a wholesome soundtrack to this affectionate portrait of a niche group. None of the members are especially talented, and projects like Harry’s remake of Oklahoma! leave even his friends in disbelief. “How’s Harry gonna get on a horse?” one member exclaims, “get a Shetland Pony!”
It would be easy to mock, but the camera follows the members to see why the club means so much. Several are dealing with loss or ailing family, and to some there’s simply nowhere else to go. The community and creative expression, however quaint to outsiders, takes on new significance. It may be light on narrative, but the honesty of the subjects is a rare thing, even in a genre such as documentary.
Full of pluck and charisma, A Bunch of Amateurs might prove the inspiration for a quirky theatrical comedy in a few years (The Fully Monty writer, Simon Beaufoy, is the film’s producer). A tribute to both amateur passion and cinema as a whole, A Bunch of Amateurs is a reminder that the reason for creativity can be as powerful as the art itself.