Lime interview - Screen
Ozwald Boetang: A mans story
Bespoke suit designer Ozwald Boateng on screen
Twelve years in the making, A Man’s Story is a documentary following the highs and lows of internationally renowned designer Ozwald Boateng as he rebuilds himself from the rock bottom of losing his business and divorcing his first wife in 1998, to 2007’s climactic success of the philanthropic African fashion show in Ghana. Speaking to an extremely dapper looking Boateng in his lavish hotel suite as director Varon Bonicas politely offers tea, the designer admits that after seeing the access all areas film for the first time he couldn’t speak to Bonicas for a couple of weeks. “It just knocked me for six. I’m actually quite skilled at getting distance from myself, because you learn it as a designer. Your name’s in a product, so you have a way of detaching yourself from what you create, but there’s a certain intertwined uniqueness about what Varon’s created that I got lost in it. It took many viewings so I could get a distance to the point where I can talk about it today.”
The film is unflinchingly personal with nothing being off limits, even to the point of beginning and ending with an emotional phone call with his now ex wife Gyunel stating, 'I bloody regret the day I f**king met you. I'm sorry, but it’s true.' In the interview Bonicas defends his decision to include such raw material. “The reason why I started the movie with that is because I wanted people to understand that I had access to Ozwald, that Ozwald was a regular dude. I’m not saying ‘This is Oswald, you’ve got to love him’ it was like, ‘Well this is the guy that I filmed at this point of his life, so let’s see who he is’ so you could unravel it. It’s just honest; it’s an honest look at someone’s life.”
As an audience we’re also present when Boateng scrolls through text messages on an old phone and discovers that his wife is having an affair. When questioned about his reaction to the revelation, Boateng says candidly, “I get having an affair, I get that. That’s got to be one of the most common things that happens in all marriages. Usually it’s because the man does something, so it’s quite nice that it was maybe from my perspective but the point is, ‘How do you deal with that? Do you end it, or do you try to work it out?’”
Throughout the interview there is constant banter between Bonicas and Boateng, the two men have obviously become firm friends after spending more than a decade together in the making of a film that was originally meant to take six weeks. Bonicas laughs, “We met while I was making documentaries at Sky and someone told me about Oswald and they promised me I’d get a film camera in return for making a documentary about him, but I didn’t realise this camera was going to be with me for so long!”
Such close friendship is hugely significant in enabling such challenging moments within Boateng’s life to be documented on film; which within the first twenty minutes of the movie plummets into a series of disastrous events starting with the lights failing during his Autumn/Winter fashion show in Paris and being followed up being informed that his entire collection has been stolen upon his return to London. When we next see Boateng he is running down the road after the truck that’s towing his car. This would not be the last time we see Boateng being tested in the film. When asked how he managed to endure through such arduous times he responds that a lot of it is down to spirituality. “Belief’s a big one. I’d say I’m spiritual, ultimately you have to be. When you have certain things happen, you go, ‘Come on this can’t be happening!’ You won’t cope if you don’t look up to the heavens and go ‘Ha!’ You have to be spiritual.”
We watch that spirituality being stretched to its very limits again in 2007 when Boateng’s fashion show during the African Summit seems set for inevitable and spectacular failure. Boateng describes being ‘brought up with an obligation to do something for Ghana’ but with no benefactors committing and his high profile guests cancelling, even his determination seems to fail him when he says, ‘I’m risking everything on it, why would I do that?’ But that determination and vision sees Boateng’s obligation remarkably fulfilled as his creations are strutted down the catwalk in front of a legion of Africa’s presidents and an array of African American stars pledging their support.
There is an extreme confidence to Boateng, as he casually reclines in an armchair in a tweed suit from his own collection; Armani’s description of him having ‘an elegance that comes from within.’ seems thoroughly accurate. However, despite his charm and the exclusive insight to his life that the film allows us, there is still a sense of distance to this man; throughout the film even when faced with challenging and often painful obstacles he always remains composed. Asking each journalist interviewing him “What one thing stuck out for you in the film” his eagerness to understand how he has been received is obvious. Clearly presentation of himself is vital to Boateng, unsurprising as that attention to detail in his work has gained him clients ranging Gerard Butler to Will Smith. Patently a man who lives and breathes his work with an unquenchable passion, the rare moments where his repose slips are at the end of his catwalk shows when he dances like whirling dervish on the stage and embraces his children. That relish for what he does and his fulfilment in achieving and sharing it with his loved ones shines through. A fascinating look at the frenzied, glamorous, inspiring and sometimes heartbreaking life of one man in an immaculately tailored tweed suit.
Info: A Man’s Story is at cinemas from March 9 and on DVD on March 19 |
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