WALK LIKE A MAN
Director: Jim Morgison, Patricia Zagarella
Stars: Ian Roberts (narrator)
Hundreds of competitors arrived in New York City in 2006 to represent their country in the Bingham Cup, the premier international tournament for gay rugby union. The Cup is named for Mark Bingham, a player with the San Francisco Fog who was aboard United 93 on September 11, 2001.
Gay Australian Rugby League champion turned actor Ian Roberts narrates Walk Like A Man, the Australian documentary about the tournament, and it’s the Australian team, the Sydney Convicts, who fall closest into focus and who ultimately win the trophy.
Walking like a man is something we all try to do, in one way or another. It’s a tough act to get right, but Walk Like A Man doesn’t even really try to get near the tributaries that feed into this very busy topic area.
For a sports documentary there’s surprisingly little on-field action, either, and dramatic moments involving painful injuries and bleeding cuts are relegated inexplicably to the background. The sport itself, little-known and rarely-played outside of Britain, France and a dozen or so countries of the British Commonwealth, isn’t explained or appraised at all.
Instead, there’s an endless carousel of of talking heads chanting the usual old homilies about gay identity and masculinity. One burly bloke has a feather boa and pink stilettos packed into his travel bags; we see and hear about these kinds of items (too) often.
Any kind of exploration of the ways in which homosexuality if overtly or stealthily excluded from traditionally macho domains such as rugby is absent altogether, as is any kind look at how the gay rugby players compartmentalise their interest in the challenges and rewards of the game with their erotic responses to rugby and its men.
An incongruous guest narrator - gruff Australian sports commentator Peter Fitzimmons - warbles a long list of dopey generalisations about how the love of sport transcends arguments over differences in sexuality. This is a very disingenuous approach since openly gay athletes are as rare as hen’s teeth even in sports like ice skating and diving.
The film’s screeching, faux-rock guitar soundtrack only emphasises what a cheap production number it thinks walking like a man is - there’s more to do with being a man than either passing a ball or putting on lipstick, surely?