★★★ Directed by: Kieran Hanson, Howard Walmsley Starring: Scott Miller, Jim Backhouse, Phillipa Seagrave, Documentary Film Review by: Chris Olson
Understated and well edited, short documentary What We Do Here tells a simple story in a genial way. It focuses on the modelling workshop of the University of Manchester, giving audiences a glimpse into the intricate world of architecture students who bring physical form to their creations and ideas using a range of techniques, equipment and materials.
As with most documentary films, the subject matter is going to be key in finding the right type of viewer. Whilst What We Do Here is fairly enjoyable on a basic cinematic level, there exists barely any conflict or tension to compel an audience into anything more than a comfortable viewing experience not so far removed from watching a university promo piece. The liveliest it gets is watching third year students cart their bulky creations from one building to another, dreading a fatal drop or collision…which doesn't come. Sorry, spoilers. Furthermore, the small moments of cultural or societal implications are fleeting, such as a small mention of avoiding using plastic for the sake of the environment or the hands-on approach being alien to the computer generation. Had these themes taken a more central role then the documentary could have, perhaps, become something more substantial.
That being said, directors Kieran Hanson and Howard Walmsley make good use of the passion of the students and teachers. Each has only great things to say about the B.15 Model Workshop, praising it's creative and supportive environment which enables students to bring a sense of palpability to their work. There is also a fascination to be found in the variety of ways in which these models get formed, from the glue and cardboard approach right the way up to working with resin and computer-aided printers.
The music choices were quite tedious, a benign guitar plucking sound appears every so often, as if the filmmakers found this suited the tone of their piece so perfectly they didn't bother looking for more or extending the one they had. Similarly there is not much daring in terms of visual flair. Unlike much of the model making on display, the construction of this documentary film is nothing breathtaking and the piece would not be out of place in those pre-trailer slots at your cinema promoting local businesses and educational courses.
Low on audience engagement levels, What We Do Here is a presentation on the benefits of further education and it's investment. Whilst viewers will not discover the blueprint for any larger truth, they may be transfixed by the journey and find a passion of their own ignited.
Watch the official movie trailer below...