Not a documentary as much as a myopic look back at the nascent 1980s New Wave scene, Made in Sheffield touches upon some of the great bands that shaped the industrial city's musical history, but never dives deeply enough to make watching it worthwhile. Parachuting in 20 years later, the creators locate a few of the original architects still middling about, briefly sketch blurry portraits, and move on, never providing a context for the disjointed snippets.
Worse is the consistent error in highlighting randomly chosen bit players to carry much of the weight. Chris Watson is an interesting guy, but using him as the sole face of Cabaret Voltaire is all sorts of wrong. Without the input of founders/main members Stephen Mallinder and Richard Kirk -- who kept the band going for more than a decade after Watson left -- the Cabaret Voltaire story is condensed into nothingness.
Many important contributors to the scene are overlooked. Much time is spent on unknowns like Vice Versa (pure crap) and Artery (an excellent, obscure revelation) while ignoring the work of producer Martin Rushent and incredibly under-rated acts like Hula. The only lead singers featured are Human League's Phil Oakley and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker. Not even mentioned are important Sheffield acts like British Electronic Foundation. Where's Martin Fry (ABC) or Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17)?
This scattershot approach is underscored by the awful interview segments, in which mics are placed so far from subjects it's impossible to hear what's being said much of the time (and no captions are provided). Many interviews are chopped off in mid-sentence, and this lack of attention to detail derails the effort.
If you want to know how Human League came to add two dancer/singers to its line-up, Made in Sheffield is quite informative. As a passing glance into electronic pop music, it's adequate, but nowhere does a viewer get a sense of why these acts are so important today, how they related to each other (other than swapping members), and why we should care. If you're a fan of any of these bands, you'll be shocked at the many omissions and the amateurishness of the film, and if you don't know anything about the Sheffield scene at all, suffice to say, you'll find little enlightenment here.