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Ma Bar — Adrian McDowall and Finlay Pretsell, 2009

Bench Pressing isn't a hobby for 73-year-old Bill McFadyen - it's a way of life. Scotland's very own bench press champion is on a quest to be the best in the world...

This inspiring Scottish documentary challenges our beliefs about older people and raises questions about how they are represented in the media.

Classroom Activities

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  • Think about the use of sound in the film. Why do you think the filmmakers have chosen to include these specific ambient sounds?
  • Look at the weightlifters shown on screen between 02:31 – 04:20. Why do you think the filmmakers have chosen these particular people to feature in these shots?
  • Throughout the film how is Bill McFadyen shown to challenge typical representations of a weightlifter? In what ways is he shown as a stereotypical weightlifter?
  • Watch the section between 08:05 – 09:44, how do the combination of moving image and voiceover work particularly well together in this section?
  • Look again at the first shot and the last shot. Why do you think the director has chosen these specifically to begin and end the film?


  • Bill mentions being influenced as a child by characters such as Desperate Dan who is a very stereotypical representation of someone physically strong. Is this a representation that is still shown in film and television today? What are some examples?
  • Strength and physical ability are traits commonly associated with masculinity. Why do you think it is important for boys to have role models who challenge this stereotype? What other qualities might it be important for young men to see regularly represented in the media and why?
  • Bill is almost 73 years old: do you find it surprising that he is participating in this sport at his age? Why? The elderly in our society are often judged in particular ways: what assumptions do people have about the elderly? Why might these have a negative impact on older people?
  • Sport is often celebrated for its positive impact in teaching us qualities beyond the physical. What qualities can sport teach us that are useful in other areas of our lives?



  • ‘It depends how you come back on it. If you come back, or you chuck it. Ye’ve gottae come back.’ Write a piece about a time where you have shown perseverance or determination.
  • Write a monologue from the point of view of a character who participates in a hobby or interest that is unusual or unexpected of them.


  • Older people in our communities have fascinating stories to tell. Make a short documentary about someone from an older generation. Focus on a particular story they have or an unusual or unexpected aspect of their life.
  • Shoot an advert that persuades people to join local or school sports groups or clubs.


  • Draw a non-typical weightlifting character. Think carefully about aspects such as age, gender and body type. Design a costume for this character and write a short description of their qualities and attributes.


  • Strike up an intergenerational conversation! Write to residents of your local care home, you could start by asking about the hobbies and interests they had when they were younger or still have now.

Clip Details