For those who appreciate what it means to have a bespoke suit, you’d be familiar with Ozwald Boateng, the first black tailor on Saville Row. To others; he’s a fashion designer with an eye for colour that has the privilege of dressing the big names, however his film only skims those elements.
First things first, ‘A mans Story’ is a documentary, one that doesn’t just speak to those who have an interest in fashion at all. Yes, discerning fashionistas and Saville Row enthusiasts will notice Ozwald Boateng’s dashing colour palette and signature chiselled collar shirts, but what filmmaker Varon Bonicos does so effectively is ensure that fashion remains just a mere backdrop of the documentary.
Whilst the tailoring and the garments play second stitch, the themes of love, and the quest of being successful are etched in the fabric of what ‘A Mans Story’ is all about.
Opening with a tense conversation, we observe a distressed Ozwald in a peculiarly different light; not his usual clean-shaven self, alone in a room taken aback by the slur of “Are you a man or who are you… I don’t want to speak to you, I bloody regret the f*cking day I met you, sorry but its true”.
Its through this heated scenario with his then wife Gynel, that one gains a stronger understanding as to what ‘A Mans Story’ is about; a very personal biopic documenting the highs and lows of a man, who from the outset lives a life that the we could only dream of.
The extravagance of travelling the world whilst being on a first name basis with Hollywood’s most successful actors in the likes of Forest Whitaker and Will Smith is what ones preconceived notions of ‘A Mans Story’ will tell us; surprisingly this isn’t the case.
It would have been easy for filmmaker Varon Bonicos to say ‘Ozwald, you have a life that many would like to live, lets throw it in their faces in every self advertising way possible and make a film out of it’, but that would have been the easy route out.
In contrast, we see that there’s a deeper sense of personal perspective on a more social and cultural level, as early on Ozwald highlights his difficulty of being accepted.
Anarchic images of the 80s’ Brixton riots to the sound of “You know your African, you know where your roots are, on the other hand your not being accepted because your black’ are moments in the film that we learn that there’s no phony exterior, the cameras are rolling and we have a microscopic view of a man with it all to juggle.
In essence ‘A mans Story’ is a series of events, stretched over the course of over a decade. Now one would think, how does this become one story? Whilst nursery will teach us that every story must have a beginning, middle and end, how does this all fuse together to make sense, and more importantly a film.
Its here we credit Bonicos’ vision as a filmmaker to keep the tape rolling. What started as an initial short-term project stretched to 12 years. It’s in the duality of events that his vision and the puzzle pieces together.
From disastrous fashion shows to getting his car towed and his entire collection stolen from his studio, to having four days to raise over 2million dollars for a fashion show in Ghana, we see the superficial Ozwald stripped bare and realise why a ‘A Mans Story’ works so well.
No matter what walk of life you find yourself in, there are common issues that speak to all of us. Whether its money, not having enough it and wanting more, striving to launch a business and balancing that with love, ‘A mans Story’ speaks to men and surprisingly women, because across the board the issues are all the same.
Whilst the intricacy of the film lies in the complexity of events, one feels that more emphasis could be placed on how Mr Boateng ‘went down in the far east’. When his business suffered largely in Asia this topic was just a worthy talking point, on a par if not greater than his divorce with his wife, which receives close attention.
In retrospect, ‘A Mans Story’ does what a Devil Wears Prada does, use the fashion, and not make the film about the fashion. The type of character that looks at the aesthetics of how Giorgio Armani (who also makes a cameo appearance) has revolutionised menswear over the years, might feel let down. But one that’s keen to know Armani’s philosophy on life, which he states, ‘Life Is Preparation, a continual getting ready for something we love’, well then this film is for them.