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‘All the Colours’ applauds the courage to be oneself

“All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White” (2023). Cast: Tope Tedela, Riyo David, Martha Ehinome Ohiere, Uche Elumelu. Director: Babatunde Apalowo. Screenplay: Babatunde Apalowo. Web site. Trailer.

Discrimination is truly an ugly concept, no matter what basis is used to try and justify it. Those who become the targets of such inexcusable prejudice are left to endure the irrational ridicule inflicted upon them, treatment that often drives them into hiding, afraid to step forward and be themselves. Considerable courage is generally required to overcome those conditions, but even vast reserves of that attribute may not be enough when it means taking on institutionalized versions of such loathsome negative behavior. Nonetheless, those who are able to muster up the bravery to tackle such undertakings should be commended, as evidenced in the new same-sex romantic drama, “All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White.”

Despite the considerable social progress that the LGBTQ+ community has made in recent years, there are still some places around the world where the act of coming out is questionable, troubling and even dangerous. In some cases, taking such a bold step raises serious issues not only about social acceptance, but also self-preservation and legal ramifications. The risks involved may even prompt some individuals to doubt their genuine intuitive impulses about their natural sexual inclinations just to be able to fit in.

Such is the case in the West African nation of Nigeria, as depicted in this debut feature from writer-director Babatunde Apalowo, a Nigerian-born filmmaker based in the UK. Apalowo’s film tells the story of Bambino (Tope Tedela), a motorcycle deliveryman who meets and befriends Bawa (Riyo David), an aspiring photographer. The two men quickly begin spending much time together, visiting various locales – some of them quite romantic – around Lagos, Nigeria’s former capital and largest city. They forge a connection characterized by a genuine affection for one another, a bond that carries implications greater than just friendship. But, given the country’s social taboos, illegality considerations and threats of violence driven by entrenched homophobia, they maintain a discreet physical distance between them. Although they may occasionally look upon one another with adoring eyes across the dinner table, the public expression of their feelings for one another never moves beyond arm’s length.

Nevertheless, despite such public discretion, something is definitely going on between the two men, even if their willingness to move matters forward is not the same. Bambino is genuinely drawn to Bawa, but he obviously has some doubts about the true nature of his sexuality that keep him from taking their relationship to the next level. Bawa, meanwhile, believes that he and his companion are destined for something deeper and more meaningful than just hanging out together, and he’s open to acting upon it. But will that happen? The film probes this question as the two men tenuously circle one another, trying to figure out what’s next.

Matters become further complicated by the sustained pressure placed on Bambino by Efeyinwa (Martha Ehinome Orhiere), a neighbor who anxiously wants to become his wife, despite his undeniably ambivalent, standoffish attitude toward her. There’s a part of Bambino that thinks maybe he should pursue a relationship with her because that’s what is expected of marriage-age Nigerian men. But there’s also a part of him that’s fully aware he’s not sexually attracted to her. He rebuffs some of her erotic advances by implying that sex outside of marriage is not an honorable act, especially when initiated by the woman. But he can use that objection only so many times before it begins to raise Efeyinwa’s suspicions, doubts that become confirmed when he finally relents and realizes his own hesitations are indeed valid.

So where does all this leave things? Bawa’s patience progressively wears thin and eventually runs out. Bambino’s reluctance to move forward in becoming a couple finally leads Bawa to give up on the idea. He’s ready to move on with his life, despite the risks, because he can’t continue hiding and living a lie. Nevertheless, though, that doesn’t mean Bawa’s any less disappointed that the situation didn’t work out. So is there no hope at this point? Or is it indeed over for good?

Close companions Bambino (Tope Tedela, right) and Bawa (Riyo David, left) contemplate whether they want to take their relationship to the next level as seen in Nigerian writer-director Babatunde Apalowo’s debut feature, the same-sex romantic drama, “All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White.” Photo © Polymath Pictures.

Considering the chemistry between Bambino and Bawa, it’s a shame that they’re unable to find the means to get together. Despite the undeniable connection between them, it seems that “circumstances” always get in the way somehow. Bawa is certainly up for something more than friendship, but Bambino is hesitant; his own doubts, oppressive cultural considerations and genuine concern over being assaulted by the intolerant hold him back. But are these justifications legitimately enough to keep the two men apart? Bambino would say yes, yet Bawa would most definitely say no. They can’t both be “right,” though, can they? So what accounts for the difference in viewpoints?

In essence, Bambino and Bawa are seemingly stuck with this conundrum because they each have different perspectives – outlooks based on each of their respective beliefs. And that’s an important consideration to take into account given the role that our beliefs play in the shaping of our existence, a product of the conscious creation process, the philosophy that makes such a result possible. It’s unclear whether they have heard of this school of thought, but, given their respective viewpoints, it’s understandable why each of their realities have unfolded as they have, their potentially romantic connection notwithstanding.

Bambino has apparently bought into the prevailing beliefs of Nigerian culture despite his personal inclinations. He believes he must conduct himself in ways that allow him to fit into his country’s society. It’s a view wherein social acceptance is driven by strongly held beliefs in conformity, of not going against the alleged natural order of things, even though his heart and libido are trying to tell him something to the contrary. These conflicting beliefs have left him torn, with the fear of being rejected by mainstream culture keeping him locked in place. Regrettably. he believes he’s being coerced into making uncomfortable compromises that are holding him back and keeping him from finding true happiness. But it must also be understood and recognized that this is his choice, outside influences aside.

To be sure, given the potential consequences Bambino might face by acting on his impulses, his fear is understandable. However, fear is, in itself, a form of belief – and a very powerful one at that. It can yield a distorted view of one’s circumstances, thwarting one’s efforts to fulfill objectives that might otherwise materialize were it not for the presence of this deterring influence. Still, though, despite the ample power behind fear, it’s difficult to deny the other intents that are trying to surface and manifest into existence.

Bawa, meanwhile, holds an opposite view. His beliefs tell him that he must be true to himself if he ever hopes to be happy. Admittedly, there’s a great deal of risk involved in pursuing such a path. But, when he compares the risk against the rewards that can arise from being his own person, he’s able to see that the rewards outweigh the risks, and he draws on that realization in forming the beliefs he uses in creating his world.

Unlike Bambino, Bawa has managed to conquer his fears and keep them from posing obstcles to the materialization of his desires. He understands where Bambino is coming from, having likely gone through this process himself at one point. But he also realizes that he can’t wait forever for Bambino to get over his insecurities. Bawa understands that he needs to move on, despite the disappointment that doing so might yield. Being himself is more important in the long run, and he knows that at some point he’ll have to let go of this dream in order to avoid becoming stuck himself.

This is a scenario that many of us face at some point in our lives, regardless of the particular circumstances involved, be they in the area of romance, business partnerships, creative collaborations or virtually anything else. It often takes tremendous courage to overcome them, too. But, if we were to ignore the necessity of doing so, we would surely stagnate and gradually die by inches. Bawa understands this, but Bambino struggles with it. Will he ever come to the same realization? And, if so, will Bawa still be there waiting for him with open arms? For his sake, let’s hope Bambino wakes up in time and gives himself permission to explore and enjoy the potential happiness that awaits him.

Romantic attraction aside, though, one might nevertheless legitimately wonder why Bambino and Bawa are in each other’s lives in the first place given their fundamental differences in outlook. That’s a good question, considering that those who are most often honestly attracted to one another generally tend to be on the same page. Indeed, alignment in beliefs and overall perspectives is frequently a major factor in a couple’s compatibility, regardless of sexual orientation.

On the other hand, though, it’s also been widely acknowledged that opposites attract. But why is that so? There could be any number of reasons behind this, but, in many instances, seemingly mismatched partners come together to learn important life lessons from each other. The inspiration they provide by way of example can awaken sleeping sensibilities, prompting changes in perspective and behavior. Perhaps Bawa has crossed paths with Bambino to encourage him to dispense with his fears and act more courageously, significant steps in finding personal fulfillment, satisfaction and happiness. At the same time, Bambino may be in Bawa’s life to help him develop a greater sense of nurturing and compassion, while simultaneously reminding him of the need for maintaining boundaries when circumstances become unacceptable.

Whatever the reasons for their involvement, Bambino and Bawa can learn much from one another, an outcome that can strengthen and deepen their bond and provide a reinforced foundation for the future success of their relationship. That can go a long way toward promoting long-term harmony, perhaps helping to ensure many happy years together. Most everyone wants someone to grow old with, and, once all the pieces of their relationship puzzle are in place, there’s no reason why that can’t happen for them. Here’s wishing them luck.

“All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White” is one of those films where viewers can’t help but root for the protagonists. Given their obvious feelings for one another – even if not acted upon – audiences innately want to see them succeed. The narrative of this picture may indeed be familiar, one that has been employed many times before in gay cinema, but, considering the setting in which this story takes place, there’s an added dimension brought to bear. Admittedly, the pacing in evoking that aforementioned sense of hope can be somewhat slow at times, but that’s understandable in light of the circumstances under which Bambino and Bawa are operating. But, by taking this approach, the filmmaker has an opportunity to present their story in a highly sensual way, one that creates ample sexual tension – and indisputably palpable attraction – that’s fittingly augmented by the picture’s carefully framed shots, many of which allow the actors to convey tremendous depth of feeling merely with facial expressions and body language. The tone, message and style of filmmaking are reminiscent of director Barry Jenkins’s Oscar-winning best picture “Moonlight” (2016), a movie whose perspective carries significant ramifications for a culture that often denies the very existence of gay individuals within its ranks. The film thereby provides a revelatory look into a segment of society that many in Nigerian society don’t recognize, understand or acknowledge. Like this film’s American counterpart, however, it’s imperative that viewers have patience with this one, giving it time to develop and emerge with a story that’s heartfelt, eye-opening, enlightening, and, above all, rewarding.

Unfortunately, finding this film at the moment may take some doing, as it has been primarily playing the circuit of mainstream and LGBTQ+ film festivals, as well as some special screenings. However, with this being Pride Month, Apalowo’s debut offering represents an important addition to gay cinema, especially coming from a nation where its LGBTQ+ community faces many inherent challenges for recognition and acceptance. Those of us who live in nations where civil rights protections have been implemented for this segment of society should be thankful for what has been bestowed upon them given the scorn and harsh conditions that many individuals in other parts of the world must contend with as a circumstance of everyday life. This offering is well worth searching for – and seeing – should it become available in your area.

Mustering up the courage to be oneself may not seem like an especially heroic act, but it truly is when coping with conditions like those presented here. Those who manage to pull this off are to be congratulated and celebrated for their bravery and fortitude. Acts like that can serve as the initial steps toward fostering significant change, not only for the individuals in question, but also for society at large. Once those shifts in perspective take hold, they can quickly become so natural and matter-of-factly accepted that it’s hard to fathom how society could have once felt otherwise. So here’s to Bambino and Bawa and their efforts to be themselves and to love whom they will. After all, should life really be any other way?

Copyright © 2023-2024, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.

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