Rank amateurs

Written on 16 Jul, 2023

Some years ago now I helped organise an anual film festival in Warrington. We called it ‘Long Shot’ with the aim being to showcase local film-making talent (the website is still online if you want to see some of the films we presented).

I was reminded of Long Shot watching ‘A Bunch of Amateurs’; a BBC Storyville documentary about the Bradford Film Club. Once a thriving community, at the start of the story the club has dwindled to only a select few members and is in danger of disappearing completely.

Full of pathos and Yorkshire humour, as the documentary unfolds you learn more about some of the Bradford Film Club members and their shared love of movie-making. Going to the movies is often a way to escape daily life for a short time, and the club is clearly an escape for many members; a chance to indulge their passion whilst putting the stresses of life to one side.

What comes through strongly is the bond formed between the members. When one is too infirm to make the weekly meet-up, the club comes to their house instead. When one member loses their partner, the club rallies round and, tellingly, they receive a big hug from another club member whom they spend most of the documentary bickering with.

The backdrop to this camaraderie is the club’s dwindling finances and inability to attract new membership. The venue is crumbling around them and is a target for graffiti and fly-tipping. An attempt to host a film night for the wider Bradford public doesn’t go well. And then Covid arrives and threatens to finish the club off for good.

At times sad, and other times uplifting, A Bunch of Amateurs shows what the movies, and being part of a social group, can mean to people. I won’t reveal the ending, but I will say the intervention of Covid gives the story a twist I wasn’t expecting.