The purpose of the African Women in Cinema Blog is to provide a space to discuss diverse topics relating to African women in cinema--filmmakers, actors, producers, and all film professionals. The blog is a public forum of the Centre for the Study and Research of African Women in Cinema.

Le Blog sur les femmes africaines dans le cinéma est un espace pour l'échange d'informations concernant les réalisatrices, comédiennes, productrices, critiques et toutes professionnelles dans ce domaine. Ceci sert de forum public du Centre pour l'étude et la recherche des femmes africaines dans le cinémas.

29 July 2010

Sophie Kaboré’s Quest: Exploring African homosexualities

Sophie Kaboré's Quest: Exploring African homosexualities

The 20 May 2010 post focused on the use of vlogging and video-sharing by African women in cinema in order to promote themselves and make their work more visible. Sophie Kaboré, an aspiring filmmaker from Burkina Faso, has made an appeal to viewers directly on YouTube and DailyMotion to assist her in the completion of a longer version of her film, Abdou’s Return (Zi-Yaabo). Her description on the video-sharing sites is as follows:

The film is about Abdou, the oldest son of a well-respected businessman, who, after a long stay abroad returns home. He has lived other experiences that brought about a psychological and sexual transformation. It is about a transvestite who returns to his social and cultural milieu, a milieu that is horrified by this practice. This is a 5-minute film in search of a producer for a larger production. For more information contact: Sophie G. Kabore, +22670356079, email:

Uploaded on DailyMotion and Itidiani’s Channel on YouTube, both created in December 2009 for the promotion of the film, it has received 1775 hits to date, with several comments of encouragement and suggestions. Below are the French to English translation of the short film Zi-Yaabo, the YouTube comments, and the interview by Souleymane Sawadogo for the journal Sidwaya.

Zi-Yaabo (2009) by Sophie Kaboré

Translation of Zi-Yaabo from French to English by Beti Ellerson

"You did not come by the house last night…"
"I did not have time…"
"Did you hear the car?"
"It’s Abdou, I am sure of it."
"Mom, Abdou is here!"
"Where is Abdou?"
"What's with this disguise?"
"What a welcome? Aren’t you happy to see me?"
"But yes!"
"Thank you!"
"My baggage is in the trunk over there."
"I am happy to see you mother, how are you?"
"Is this a joke, what has become of you my son?"
"Listen mother, the flight was very long, I am very tired, this is neither the time nor place for criticism! I will see you later. I am very tired!"
"Abdou, could you do me a favor and take off those earrings, those bracelets and the whole caboodle that you are wearing! Do you understand? Your father is the imam of this neighborhood? He will kill you rather than let you dishonor us all."
"You have done your duty as mother to bring me into the world and I will accept the rest. If you do not want to see me as I am then tell me. Since I arrived, there has been nothing but criticism. Abdou this, Abdou that, I am sick of it!"
"I am sick of it, leave me alone. Maybe it is better if I go back."
"Abdou! Abdou!"
"That’s enough mom, that’s enough!"
"Abdou! Abdou!"
"Welcome, hello father."
"Hello my daughter. Has Abdou arrived?"
"Yes he has."
"Oh, he has. Could you bring me some water please?"
"Hello dad."
"Is that you?"
"Yes dad."
"It’s you Abdou!"
"Yes dad."
"Get him out of here, right now!"
"Make him disappear!"
"Get him out of here, right now!"

French to English translation by Beti Ellerson of comments from YouTube:

1. I think that it would have been more instructive to present an “ordinary” gay couple coming home. The son could have introduced his companion to his father, the Imam. The latter’s reaction—the violent and stupid rejection—would have been the same as in the film, but with a greater acceptance and reaction from the heterosexual public, which is the purpose of the video. However, this does not at all diminish the courage of the filmmaker.

2. I think that there is a great risk in presenting the gay world with images of the “drag queen” as is presented in the video. I think the drag queen is very unhappy because of the prevalence of homophobia, and only represents a very small percentage of the LGBT community. And I think that this representation risks being counterproductive by increasing the rejection by the hetero-normative society, gays and lesbians, bi-sexuals or transgendered persons, effeminates or not.

3. The subject is not easy, but it deserves to be addressed. But this would require a bit more finesse in the treatment. Good luck, because I see that the path is strewn with pitfalls.

Interview by Souleymane Sawadogo for Sidwaya translated from French to English by Beti Ellerson

Ms Sophie Kaboré is an aspiring filmmaker. For several years she has worked on the production of a short film. Her film, Abdou’s Return (or Zi-yaabo) of which a first version is on YouTube, treats the subject of homosexuality in Burkina Faso. She reveals to the journal, Sidwaya the difficulties that she encountered and the reasons that led her to broach this theme.

Sidwaya (S): Your film speaks of homosexuality. What is the plot?

Sophie G. Kaboré (S.G.K.): I was looking for a relevant and topical subject for a short film. I have often signed production contracts but nothing followed. Before taking on this project, I knew nothing about homosexuality. I had also thought about portraying a character using comedy. However, I was not aware that this could cause problems.

But I made this choice because up until then I had heard that African filmmakers had to rely on funding. I am not challenging this but I feel that each filmmaker must be free to choose. The film is about the return of the oldest son of a well-respected businessman, after a long stay abroad. During his stay he lived other experiences, which brought about a psychological and sexual transformation. So, it is about a transvestite who returns to his native town, an environment that condemns such practices.

S. What did you want to bring out by treating the subject of homosexuality?

S.G.K.: This idea came to me because I have gay friends. Before I met them, to be honest, I never thought about it, personally. Since knowing them I noticed that they are different, sensitive, and very special. It is for them that I embarked on my film.

S. Is it to make a plea for their cause and to stand up for them?

S.G.K: To make a plea for their cause is perhaps a bit much, since I do not know anything about homosexuality. But I have good friends, extraordinary friends. And these friendships led me to work on this project.

S.: You stated that you encountered problems during the production of the film. What kind of problems?

S.G.K.: I encountered problems both personally and professionally. In terms of professional problems, when I completed the 6-minute film, Abou’s Return, I submitted it to festivals. For instance, the coordinator of "Vues d’Afrique" suggested, after stating that it was very interesting, that it was too short for competition, and to make it longer.

I am now at this stage, and my main character, because of his commitment to the film, delayed his trip to the United States. I have submitted my dossier to institutions that were likely to finance it, and each time I was told that the subject is taboo in our society.

Therefore, the people and institutions that I contacted said that they were sorry but were not able to support me. A general manager was aggressive towards me, calling me a damned woman. I had advice from experienced filmmakers like Idrissa Ouédraogo who also explained to me that it was an uncomfortable subject. Some cinema professionals have gone so far as to nickname me “fag hag” and many have asked why I have hooked on to the theme of homosexuality.

S.: Has your private life suffered?

S.G.K.: When I needed to make the film longer I realized that it was not by reading literature that I would really become knowledgeable about the question of homosexuality. I had to spend time with gays, who were already my friends. From the beginning my boyfriend could not deal with it.

As time went by rumors started that I went out with women since I was always with gay men. If truth be told, I did not hide since they were just as much my friends as others. I was not ashamed, I am even less afraid to go out with them.

S.: How long have you been with your boyfriend?

S.G.K.: We have been together for nearly three years. It was the peddling of these rumors by friends who saw me in the company of gays that is the cause of our clash.

S. : Did not the change in your behavior contribute to the clash?

S.G.K. : Nothing has changed in our relationship. It is the work that I chose to do that is the explanation—I needed to do this research and spend time with homosexuals. I am nearly on the street. I have just left my boyfriend because of this.

S.: You have also said that your family has reacted.

S.G.K.: I went with a gay friend to the home of my sister, who is very religious. When she found out she couldn't deal with it. I have a lot of respect for gays, they are human beings like everybody else. For instance, one does not choose to be black or white; we just are and that’s all to it.

S: Perhaps those close to you fear that homosexuality is contagious?

S.G.K.: (Laughter) Of course not! I would not say that! I have friends who live in this milieu. I will not hide it…, I don’t know, myself. Someone is one person one day, and discovers he is another person later. Personally, I feel that it is a state of being as any other. There are those who are by birth and others who become gay.

S.: What is the possibility that you may sway towards homosexuality or perhaps you have already?

S.G.K.: (Laughter) Am I already? No. But one never knows, “never”. Up until the present I have never had a desire to go out with a woman.

S.: Inspite of your trials and after your film Abdou’s Return, you have persevered. Where are you now in your pursuit?

S.G.K.: In fact, I have assembled a production dossier for a documentary on homosexuality and I am looking for funding. The documentary will focus on homosexuals living with HIV/AIDS. In the case of all of these projects many people have tried to support me but at the last minute withdrew. I am not sure why. An international television station which I contacted felt that the subject was too delicate.

S.: At the rate that things are going do you think that you will be able to complete the film one day?

S.G.K.: I cannot be 100% sure, but I am staying optimistic. I am willing to fight to finish the film because it speaks about a subject that should get the same attention as any other film. But I am still looking for a producer. I hope to do a 52 to 60 minute film. I appeal to all who are willing to assist me in completing the film. While there are many who are reticent about dealing with the subject, as I stated before, gay people are like everybody else, and to make a film about homosexuality is not reprehensible. For certain requirements for the film I took a trip to Côte-d’Ivoire. A gay Ivoirian who is presently in Burkina even says that homosexuality is more developed here than there, only that it is not talked about. The majority of gays that I know are foreigners, whereas all of the lesbians are Burkinabè. As for me, I do not know when this phenomenon began in Burkina, but I know that it is increasing in magnitude. But far be it for me to promote it!


"Homosexuality is not unafrican; what is unafrican is homophobia": Interview by Olivier Barlet with Wanuri Kahiu about her film "Jambula Tree"

Boukary Sawadogo discusses his research: Three marginal figures in the cinemas of Francophone West Africa - the mad person, the homosexual, the woman

Frieda Ekotto: For an endogenous critique of representations of African lesbian identity is visual culture and literature