THE SWENKAS (Jeppe Rønde, Denmark). 72 min. Subtitled. Friday (April 29), 9:30 pm, Bloor, and Sunday (May 1), 3:30 pm, ROM. Rating: NNNN
HOT DOCS: CANADIAN INTERNATIONAL DOCUMENTARY FESTIVAL to May 1, various locations. $10, various passes $60, stu/srs free at daytime screenings, screenings after 11 pm free. 416-530-8105, www.hotdocs.ca. For complete Hot Docs schedule, see Indie & Rep Film, page 117.
Dane Jeppe Rønde 's doc about Swenkas, working-class Zulu men in South Africa who dress up in flashy suits to compete against each other every Saturday night, takes the prize for the festival's most unusual film.
Edited like a work of fiction, complete with narration (co-written by Rønde) spoken by a man who looks like he's acting, the film seduces with its gorgeous cinematography and archetypal tale.
The young and handsome Sabelo has just lost his father, the former head of the Swenkas group, and he's not sure if he wants to continue the tradition, despite the encouragement of a dapper frequent winner named Mr. Dangerous .
Being a Swenka, we're told, is about self-respect and cleanliness - i.e., avoiding alcohol. But where does self-respect end and vanity begin? Why are these peacocks spending money on expensive suits and not on their families or their own education? And what's a Dane doing telling this story?
All legitimate questions, yet all rendered redundant by this compelling, mysterious film.