Tobi’s journey. Colors of Tobi // Verzió X ELTE
Éva loves deeply her child, and tries to support him in every situation. For example she helps Tobi with the papers for changing his name, accompanies him, together with her husband, to the Pride parade in Budapest, wearing matching rainbow ties and holding a table with “Team of Supportive Parents” inscription, as she also helps Tobi to dye his hair. Éva really tries to support Tobi again and again, even in an increasingly conservative country where trans rights are being stripped back. But no matter how hard Éva tries to support her child, she still has difficulties dealing with the situation and is deeply emotionally upset by it.
Tobi's parents at Pride (Colors of Tobi)
At Tobi’s 18th birthday party, all the family gathers at their small home in the village. But when Éva accidentally calls Tobi on his birth name, “Jázmin”, tears flow over Tobi’s face, and he leaves the room. A close-up shot of Éva’s face clearly shows how affected she is by the situation. Nevertheless, she cannot understand why Tobi reacted the way he did. Many similar situations we see, when the struggling Éva tries to learn from Tobi, by asking question like this about LGBTQ identity: “Why don’t gay and lesbian couples just sleep with each other and raise children?” Another example occurs when Tobi and his parents look together through old childhood photos of Tobi. Éva holds in her hand a picture of Tobi as a girl just before he decided that he is a boy. But she didn’t seem to understand why Tobi didn’t want to see this picture, and kept asking: “Why is it bothering you? It’s also a part of you”.
But even though it seems like Tobi and Éva can’t understand each other at some points, they also share very private and intimate moments that Tobi doesn’t share with any other family members. For example, a scene is shown where Tobi and Éva are speaking about the surgery and the mother truly mentions all her concerns and fears about it. Also, when Tobi and his mother are lying in the bedroom of the parents, which is already a very private part of a house, they are talking about a very sensitive topics: their anxiety problems. This shows the intimacy between the two. All these very private and intimate shots, which allow intimate access to difficult moments were made possible by the fact that Bakony accompanied the family over a four-year-period and shot the film with a crew of only three people (Erickson, 2021).
Colors of Tobi is maybe not the classic kind of narrative one imagines in a documentary about an LGBTQ issue. Tobi is not the activist main character actively advocating and sharing his thoughts on LGBTQ. In fact, Tobi rarely talks directly to the camera, and we rarely know what he is thinking. Instead, the film is more about Eva and her unwavering support. But all this was a conscious decision of the filmmaker Alexa Bakony, who in an interview said: “The parents were so involved in this story that I wanted to strongly include them in the film, to get a full picture of the life of this family.” (Stojiljković, 2021).
Tobi and Eva (Colors of Tobi)
During the whole documentary you can follow the growth of the relationship between Tobi and his mother including all the ups and downs. The viewer sees a mother who tries her honest best to support and understand her child, sharing intimate moments with her child, and still struggling again to get her head around Tobi's realization of his non-binary identity. The filmmaker shows them fighting, hugging, and hardly trying to keep on understanding each other. And even though the parents of Tobi, and especially the mother Éva are probably not the active collaborators of the LGBTQ movement, like it is mentioned in an article of Çakırlar (2017) about LISTAG (Family and Friends of LGBTQ people in Turkey), they are still trying their best to handle the situation.
This documentary shows the emotional relationship between a mother and her child searching for their own identity in all the intimate and private moments. This probably reflects a story that many parents experience in such a situation.
Çakırlar, C. (2017). Transnational Pride, Global Closets and Regional Formations of Screen Activism: Documentary LGBTQ Narratives from Turkey. Critical Arts, 31(2), 44–60.
Erickson, S. (2021, November 8). DOC-NYC Film Festival: Non-Fiction, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll. Gay City News. https://www.gaycitynews.com/doc-nyc-film-festival-non-fiction-drugs-and-rock-n-roll/
Stojiljković, M. (2021, June 21). Alexa Bakony - Director of Colors of Tobi. Cineuropa - the Best of European Cinema. https://cineuropa.org/en/interview/406218/
Tárnai, E. (2021, July 1). Colors of Tobi: an intimate story of queerness and family in contemporary Hungary. The Calvert Journal. https://www.calvertjournal.com/features/show/12914/colors-of-tobi-lgbtq-film-hungary-alexa-bakony
ELTE Film Studies student