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‘A Man’s Story’ is a shallow, unsatisfying portrait of designer Ozwald Boateng

‘A Man’s Story’ is a shallow, unsatisfying portrait of designer Ozwald Boateng

A Man’s Story
Directed by Vanon Bonicos
UK, 2010

British fashion designer Ozwald Boateng’s career is chronicled in A Man’s Story, a documentary derived from director Varon Bonicos’ camera crew having spent twelve years tailing and accruing footage of the man at both work and play. The film’s lone strength is that there’s always a sense, thanks to the extensive footage accumulated, that the viewer is right in the middle of the action, as randomly arranged as it all seems. Unfortunately, the worth of detailing this action is never really clear.

When creating an intimate portrait of a subject, critical distance on behalf of the documentarian would seem to be vital, a quality that is not evident in Bonicos’ film. Given the level of access involved, one might expect a strong degree of insight, but the reigns of the film are very often given to Boateng himself, a man prone to self-mythologising and, despite some charisma, lacking in a great degree of eloquence; his frequency in saying “I don’t know” in regards to what drives him to do certain things certainly isn’t helpful or engaging. The documentary fails to answer the question facing any personality-led work, that of why the audience should care. The viewer is given plenty of footage of key events and of some admittedly distinctive clothing, but learns very little about his actual work and what fuels his designs. Any exploration of Boateng’s importance is limited to non-elaborative sound bites: when one assistant is asked what makes the man special, he just replies, “He’s unique!”

A Man’s Story ultimately feels less like a probing examination and more of a puff piece that could be easily be mistaken for a corporate video. Through Boateng’s prominence in the narrative reins, the film additionally feels like a video defence for the man’s failings in his relationship that both develops and ends during the twelve years captured. Footage of the end of his marriage to Gyunel via mobile phone loudspeaker is used twice, one time being at the film’s very beginning, showing Boateng being suspiciously comfortable with such a personal devastation being the subject of voyeurism; Gyunel is later interrogated by the filmmakers regarding her apparent adultery, resulting in very uncomfortable notions regarding Bonicos’ journalistic ethos. The director fails to explore his subject beyond the entirely superficial, simply providing a grovelling biography of random occurrences and failing to justify why this man’s story is even worth telling.

Josh Slater-Williams