White Colour Black

 

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A story illustrating how growing up can involve going back.

 
White Colour Black   

For some reason it has taken until now for this film made by Joseph a. Adesunloye in 2016 to obtain a full release here. It was in fact his debut feature (he wrote, produced and directed) and has since been followed by Faces (2018). Seeing it now, it seems strange that we have had to wait since White Colour Black is a very accomplished work. However, the delay does provide the opportunity to compare it with one of Peccadillo's 2020 releases, Hong Khaou's Monsoon which dates from 2019.

 

Both films have as their central character a young man settled in the UK but born elsewhere. Kit in Monsoon is Vietnamese and on returning to Saigon ponders on how relevant the country of his birth is to the man he has become. In White Colour Black the key figure is Leke (Dudley O'Shaughnessy), a Senegalese who has made a career for himself as a photographer in London. When he receives a telephone call from his uncle (Wale Ojo) informing him of the death of his father from whom he had become estranged, Leke belatedly flies back to Dakar and then travels to the coast to his own village of Popenguine.

 

Monsoon's Kit is gay and his story touches on a new relationship with an American whom he meets in Saigon. That development meant that some viewers might have been encouraged to approach Monsoon as an inherently gay story and then have been taken aback by the film's slow pace and reliance on atmosphere during its first half. Something rather similar but in reverse could arise with White Colour Black. The initial scenes in London stress Leke's hedonistic life-style and his indulgence in drugs and sex, the latter finding him seemingly indifferent to the sex of his partner. In this instance it is the subsequent scenes in Senegal which make up the rest of the film that are slow moving. Adesunloye adroitly captures the feel of Senegal first in the capital and then on the coast and the music that he uses adds to this strong sense of atmosphere.

 

Given that Monsoon was Hong's second feature and gave evidence of his maturing skill following on from the promising Lilting (2014), it is very much to Adesunloye's credit that the comparison does not overshadow White Colour Black. There are good performances here (Yrsa Daley-Ward appears in two contrasting roles and both Wale Ojo and Alassane Sy make their mark) and, even if Dudley O'Shaughnessy can't match the exceptional work of Henry Golding the lead actor in Monsoon, he nevertheless does well. As for Adesunloye's direction, he is splendidly confident (for one thing he is wholly at ease with the 'Scope format used) and one feels that he must have had a close bond with Christopher Chow whose editing is so central to the adroit story-telling. If both films share a sexual frankness, far more importantly each one is the work of a filmmaker who can be thought of as an artist.

 

There is no doubt that Adesunloye has made a film that seeks to speak approvingly of the closeness of the family unit and it does so by showing how Leke comes to realise what he has lost by adopting such a superficial way of life in London. The one weakness of the film is that this view is presented a mite simplistically even if it is valid at heart. But, regardless of that, Adesunloye is certainly utterly sincere in adopting this viewpoint as witness the double dedication written up at the close of the film: "To my father. For my mother".

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Dudley O'Shaughnessy, Yrsa Daley-Ward, Wale Ojo, Alassane Sy, Damola Adelaja, Guetan Calvin Elito, Lily Dodworth-Evans, Jamey May, Ayvianna A. Snow, Lynne Anne Rodgers, Yumiko Hanasaka.

 

Dir Joseph a. Adesunloye, Pro Joseph a. Adesunloye, Screenplay Joseph a. Adesunloye, Ph RorySkeoch, Art Dir Marco Turich, Ed Christopher Chow, Music Matthieu Karsenti, Costumes Marie Ange.

 

DreamCoat Films-Peccadillo Panorama.
85 mins. UK/Portugal. 2016. Rel: 19 February 2021. Available on Curzon Home Cinema. Cert. 15.