“In Africa, homosexuals disappear from society,” explains the director of “Change-color”

The film opens with a scene between Ali and Saint, two young Ivorian lovers. They obviously love each other. But the marriage to Saint comes to put an end to this idyll. Ali accuses him of being a color changer, of being one of those who hide their identity in order to better blend in with the crowd.

With color change, available on Arte.tv, Stéphane Olijnyk delivers the powerful story of an impossible love in a homophobic society. Filled with ambivalence and heartbreaking fragility, the characters faithfully depict the reality of homosexuality in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Change-color”, a faithful fiction

In Brazil, Stéphane Olijnyk had already made Ursinho, another medium-sized film. “The idea was to make another film about homophobia on another continent. I wanted to show how gay characters survive in a homophobic context. The relationship between these two films is the desire to tell about homophobia within the gay community. »

Stéphane Olijnyk offers a very journalistic approach to fiction. “Before I tell a story, I will first document myself. I meet people, they tell me their story and from there I develop stories. I confronted this scenario with my Ivorian team and they intervened in the narrative. And in fact, it is very much rooted in reality. “.

Gays in Ivory Coast

Originally, Stéphane Olijnyk wanted to shoot this film in Senegal, where homosexuality is an offense punishable by one to five years in prison. In 2019, he took to doing some scouting in Dakar. He quickly realized that the project would fall through and that no one there would have wanted to participate. He was then put in contact with people in Côte d’Ivoire where there are no homosexuality crimes.

“Recently in Côte d’Ivoire, the government removed sexual orientation from discrimination. This means we can continue to target homosexuals and they will not be able to lodge a complaint.” Initially, Stéphane Olijnyk did not want to return to this country because he had been exposed to homophobia there: “I had taken a report with a journalist and a French cameraman as editor-in-chief. They discovered on the spot that I was gay because I was not playing on the same court as them. They subjected me to constant harassment. I ended up having nightmares about it. I also worry about this movie because it resonates with my own story. “.

The story of multiple violence

IN Change color, each scene is another level of violence. The family, the others and even the gay community: everything locks Ali into a straitjacket of suffocating morality. Stéphane Olijnyk insists: “The weight of religion and family is very powerful. It is always the relationship with the group that controls the behavior. The director speaks without anger but with great precision about these men he has met.” On the one hand, these want men to live out their homosexual love. And on the other hand, it’s a disease. We always put it in our heads that it was imported from the West and that it did not exist in Africa. “

Stéphane Olijnyk talks about the difficulty of being gay, anywhere. But in Africa, he says, there is a kind of vigilance that is taking hold. “They can be condemned by other homosexuals at any time. Many of them are fleeing. I know Africans living in France or Germany because they were in danger at home. »

A desire to make homosexuals exist

“The idea is not to give a moral lesson to Africans and tell them that they are late, not liberal enough, progressive or tolerant. It is a completely different culture centered on the group, the community, the family, which are very powerful entities. And in Africa, outside of society, there is no social existence. Homosexuals are then banned and banished. They no longer have any kind of maintenance. They disappear from society. Their only solution is to leave. “

The observation of the situation of homosexuals in Côte d’Ivoire as in other countries is harsh. Ali, at the heart of medium-sized films color change witness a vice that seizes the freedom of these men. For thirty-five minutes we do not take our eyes off him as he watches his whole world crumble. Stéphane Olijnyk will continue to testify through fiction. His next film about homophobia takes place in a Middle Eastern country. He already knows it will be dangerous to get to the end of the shooting. But he definitely adds: “I want to make this film, precisely because it’s the impossibility that interests me”.

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