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The Swenkas (2004) More at IMDbPro »


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Release Date:
18 November 2004 (Denmark) See more »
Genre:
Plot:
A documentary on Johannesburg South African men who call themselves "Swenkas" and compete for cash and prizes in an event that's part fashion show, part choreography, and part moral code. | Add synopsis »
Awards:
1 win & 1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
Utterly unique documentary "fable" See more (2 total) »

Cast

  (in credits order)
Sabelo ... Himself
Mr. Zulu ... Himself
Yule Masiteng ... Storyteller (voice)

Directed by
Jeppe Rønde 
 
Writing credits
(in alphabetical order)
Kim Leona 
Jeppe Rønde 

Produced by
Anne Diemer .... producer
Rasmus Thorsen .... producer
 
Original Music by
Povl Kristian 
 
Cinematography by
Nic Hofmeyr 
Lars Skree 
Sebastian Winterø 
 
Film Editing by
Olivier Bugge Coutté 
 
Sound Department
Rune Palving .... sound engineer
 
Music Department
Matias La Cour .... music editor
 

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

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Runtime:
Denmark:72 min | USA:72 min
Country:
Language:
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
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12 out of 12 people found the following review useful.
Utterly unique documentary "fable", 29 May 2005
Author: James McNally from Toronto, Canada

I saw this film at the 2005 Hot Docs festival in Toronto. This film was really unlike any other documentary I've ever seen. The Swenkas are a group of about 20 Zulu men who gather each weekend to "swank": they dress up in fancy suits and jewellery and compete before a judge to see who is the most stylish. Sort of a "Lord of the Bling" (ooh, couldn't resist!). But it's more than just fun for them. Swanking represents self-respect, and these men emphasize certain values such as cleanliness and sobriety. It's as if the old adage "Clothes make the man" has come to life. Even though some may think these men are spending far too much money on their clothes, it seems to have given them the pride they need to be successful in life. Certainly no one in their families complains. Besides, sometimes they compete for large sums of money (or even, now and then, a cow.) The reason the film stands out is the way it has been crafted. Director Rønde uses the framing device of a fictional narrator, an old Zulu vagabond who tells us a bit about the group, but also sets up the dramatic arc of the story: the leader of the Swenkas has just died, and his son is grieving and thinking about abandoning the group. This storyline gives the film the feeling of a fictional film, and at times it's hard to believe that the whole thing isn't carefully scripted.

The director explained afterward that he never told the participants what to say, but that since Zulu culture is built around storytelling and the Swenkas were all used to performing, each participant had no trouble "performing" in the film. But they really were working through a difficult time in the life of their group.

The result is a beautifully shot, and even more beautifully edited film that feels more like a fable. The recurring themes are hope and the relationship between fathers and sons. The director actually told us that this film is the second in a trilogy about faith, hope and love, and I found myself really eager to see the other films. A standard documentary approach, with interviews and such, would have made an interesting film. Jeppe Rønde's unorthodox approach has given us a transcendent one.

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