We take queer relations for granted in Europe. People of all persuasions can walk hand in hand across the streets of Madrid, Manchester and Dublin, and although they may encounter some aggression from passersby, gay couples know that the law is on their side. How very different it is in Nigeria, where acts of homosexuality are punishable by “caning of 100 lashes.” And in a film based on two gay men in Lagos, European audiences come face to face with an altogether different perspective on homosexuality.
The film centres on Bambino and Bawa, two men who meet in Lagos, and develop a friendship. Straight away, they detect a tension between them, but given their heritage and upbringing, are too reluctant to do anything about it. The rest of All The Colours of the World are between Black and White centre on their feelings, dipping in and out of the scenery with the fervour of a hunting eyeing up its prey. As plots go, it’s fairly paper thin, but the two men make it worthwhile, committing themselves to their geography, as well as their carnal desires.
Of the two actors, Tope Tedela (Bambino) is the more relatable, peering into the environment, as if praying for a God he knows won’t hear from him. Bambino is a delivery man who rides around the city on his motorbike, who stumbles into Bawa (played with mercurial restraint by Riyo David), almost by chance. It would be wrong to call the film “magic realism”, but there’s something deeply spiritual about the work, tying these wayward men together. Separately, they see Lagos in one way, but together, they view it as a form of paradise for their needs and personal affectations.
Bambino’s life experiences another hurdle: His friend Ifeynwa (Martha Ehinone Orhiere) asks him to fellate her before she enters into an arranged marriage, putting him an awkward position. When Bambino and Ifeynwa engage in the sexual act, it is done as an act of labour, not lust. Bambino plays the lover, but his eyes belong to another.
What director Babatunde Apalowo Apalowo provides is context. By the time the film has closed, we are left with a character study that highlights the struggles that exist across the seas. The forbidden love presented in the film is one that is carried with great shame and great pathos. Without positing a spoiler, it doesn’t end with a happy ending, or close out with some aphorism that the viewer can take home with him. Instead, like life itself, it simply focuses on the events itself. All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White is a work of understated beauty.
All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White premieres at the 31st edition of Raindance.