Denmark, South Africa | 72 MINUTES | Zulu, English |
In the '80s, Madonna appropriated "voguing" from the gay clubs and demi-monde of underground New York and turned it into a pop culture fad. Soon, fashionable teenage kids in the 'burbs and the sticks were posing like supermodels and voguing to the beat with all the that's-little-me-in-the-spotlight verve of a Meatpacking District drag queen. Maybe the same thing will happen with "swanking." After all, it shares with voguing an interest in style, fashion, posing, and just plain looking good in front of an appreciative audience. Only unlike the voguers of yore, the swankers of today, who call themselves the Swenkas and are the subject of this fascinating documentary of the same name, are working class guys, who, as the saying goes, just happen to be straight. And oh yes, they're Zulus, who spend the work week in the big cities of South Africa, toiling, one suspects, as much to bankroll their designer-suit-with-all-the-accouterments habits as to support their adoring families and relatives, who still live in isolated little villages in the bush. The Swenkas are obviously living for the weekend, when they have the time to shoot their cuffs, show off their shoes and socks, and pass on Swenka traditions to the younger generation. The documentary is framed by narration from a fictional storyteller, a wizened old man who tells the Swenkas' story, and in particular the story of one young man who must decide whether or not to carry on his recently deceased father's Swenka tradition.