BFI Flare Review: Colors Of Tobi

DIRECTED BY

Alexa Bakony

STARRING

Tóbiás Benjámin Tuza, Éva Ildikó Tuza, Zoltán Tuza, Nikolett Tuza and Máté Tuza

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SYNOPSIS

A mesmerising portrait of a family grappling with teenage gender dysphoria, this uplifting documentary exudes the defiant message that love is all you need.

Tobi is a typical sixteen-year-old, desperate for the end of school and wondering what path in life to take. Against challenges of an increasingly conservative Hungary, where trans rights are currently being stripped back, this documentary shines a light on the journey of Tobi’s mother as much as Tobi themselves.

Colors of Tobi is a documentary directed by Alexa Bakony that focuses on the Tuza family, who live in a tiny village in Hungary, where their sixteen-year-old recently came out as transgender and lives by his chosen name of Tobi. The hard-working people in the village struggle to make ends meet, while their kids can’t wait to escape to Budapest as soon as they turn eighteen. After the initial shock, we see how the family gathers round to support Tobi through his transition while also seeing how conflicted his mother Éva feels about the idea of losing the daughter she raised.

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The documentary opens with Tobi and Éva going through his grades and also signing papers to have Tobi’s gender and name corrected, followed by the sequence of the Tuza family attending the Pride parade in the city where their are protestors with derogatory signs, whilst Tobi’s parents hold high their own sign of ‘Team of Supportive Parents’ and during the course of the documentary, we witness at first hand the support and heartache that the family go through. Bakony directs some scenes like a fly-on-the-wall, with the family conversing at the dinner table and in one scene Éva accidentally calls him by his dead name and we see Tobi go into a separate room but can only hear his cries as the father leaves to try and console him. The documentary can be genuinely heartbreaking at times, particularly in moments like that as Tobi is trying to get to a place where he’s happy with himself, as well as learn how risky the procedures for changing genders is, as well as focus on Éva and even though we see her supportiveness during the course of the documentary, we still see her trying to come to terms with, in her mind, losing the daughter that she raised and the two don’t shy away from each other on having these conversations with each other which make for some compelling viewing.

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Though it primarily focuses on the love and support on gender identity, there is some moments of transphobia raised, be it the Pride parade, or in a conversation with his friends when playing pool, Tobi learns from one of them that when the topic of gay marriage being legal in Ireland came up, their father said, “I hope that a flood will take all those people to Hell’, and they begin discussing whether their parents are supportive and, in general, it appears to us that Tobi is one of the lucky ones in the group. Not surprisingly with the films short runtime, I definitely felt short-changed in how it ended, primarily because I wanted to follow Tobi’s journey some more.

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VERDICT

A raw and intimate look into the journey of a family when one is going through transition, Colors of Tobi makes for some compelling viewing.

★★★