All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White is the debut feature of Nigerian-born, UK-based writer and director Babatunde Apalowo. A slow-paced story of confusing emotions in a country where even talking about such feelings could get you locked up is part of the Raindance Film Festival.
The African nation of Nigeria is among the worst in the world in its attitude towards homosexuality; in some parts of the country a person could receive a sentence of up to 14 years in prison, and in other parts (under Sharia law) a death sentence is possible. Even the discussion of LGBT+ rights is criminalised.
It’s worth knowing this information going into All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White as it will help to mitigate the beautiful lack of speed at which things happen in the film.
Bambino (Tope Tedela) works as a motorcycle delivery driver in the Nigerian capital Lagos. Outside of work, he leads a quiet and relatively self-contained life in his small apartment. When his path crosses with photographer and betting shop owner Bawa (Riyo David) the two become tentative friends, and Bambino finds himself thrown into uncertainty and self-doubt.
As a debut feature, All the Colours of the World … has much to offer, even though patience on the part of the viewer is definitely required. This is largely because of the pacing – Bambino and Bawa’s friendship develops at a very careful and steady pace, and it can’t really be any other way given that they are tiptoeing around something which would get them at minimum a hefty prison sentence (if they weren’t lynched in the streets beforehand). Casual violence (and easy to miss if you’re not paying attention) in the background of an otherwise ordinary street scene truly brings home how much the men are risking by even spending time together on Bawa’s photography competition.
Nigerian-born, UK-based writer and director Babatunde Apalowo wears his influences on his sleeve. The two main characters occasionally hold the gaze of the camera directly, evoking images from the final part of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight; some of the musical cues definitely conjure up the cinema of Wong Kar-Wai, although the dreamy romanticism isn’t quite there yet. And a number of the beautiful, long wideshots for some reason also put me in mind of Kogonada’s Columbus. It’s no surprise that cinematographer David Wyte has been nominated for Raindance’s ‘Best Cinematography’ award.
The focus throughout the 93-minute film is firmly on the faces of Bambino, Bawa, and Bambino’s young neighbour Ifeyinwa (Martha Ehinome Orhiere) who harbours romantic feelings for him which he struggles to reciprocate. Other characters are only heard – arguing through a wall, for example – or their faces are never seen; their importance at this point in the men’s lives is minimal and they are peripheral to events.
All the Colours of the World Are Between Black and White received the Teddy Award at the 2023 Berlin Film Festival, putting Apalowo in the company of previous alumni Pedro Almodovar and Francis Lee – it would be great to think that he can produce more cinema at that level.