The ritual is thought to have developed at some point during the late 1950s when migrant workers would return home for Christmas holidays and show their families that they had reached a measure of success in the city. But the film doesn’t say anything about the origins of swanking. Jeppe Rønde’s Swenkas appear as if they just emerged from a very unusual type of fairy tale.
In real life, the Swenkas are poor workers who replace their overalls with designer suits, competing in fashion shows held in basements, just to feel a temporary boost from being nobody to somebody. Their story is essentially one of hybrid identities. Rønde’s The Swenkas is a human story about a young man going through a liminal phase and searching for a father-figure before becoming one himself. The film follows his struggles to get on with his life and how he decides to join the group of Swenkas, whose chief is actually his father.