Colors of Tobi (Bakony, 2021) is a documentary about a family affected by gender dysphoria. The film focuses on Tobi’s journey to coming out as a transgender man, questioning that identity and the ramifications for both Tobi and Tobi’s family.
Colors of Tobi is a heartfelt and often moving documentary about a family wrestling with gender dysphoria. While we’re shown glimpses of the hostility that the LGBTQ+ community face, in the increasingly conservative, Hungary, the film wisely chooses to focus our attention on Tobi and their family.
Acceptance, compassion, love
From birth, Tobi’s gender was assigned as female, but Tobi transitioned to identifying as a transgender male as a young teenager. The film’s central message is one of acceptance, compassion, but most importantly, love.
The documentary examines the impact of gender dysphoria on Tobi, but equally, if not more so, its impact on the entire family. In particular, the film focuses on Tobi’s mother, Éva. Whilst Éva clearly, and unconditionally, accepts how her child chooses to identify and live their life, she was raised and conditioned to view the world and its inhabitants, in a very ‘traditional’ fashion.
Thus, Éva will be someone that a lot of people will easily identify with. Try as Éva might to support and protect her child, there are still a lot of challenges for them to overcome as a family. For example, Éva, occasionally and accidentally, refers to Tobi by the feminine name that Tobi was given at birth. It’s an understandable slip of the tongue, but it’s one that obviously impacts Tobi’s mental health and causes unintended tension and upset.
Powerful, emotional, humbling
The challenges the family face are further exacerbated when Tobi decides to stop identifying as a transgender male, choosing instead to identify as non-binary. The scene where Tobi explains this decision is heartbreaking. Tobi appreciates this will be a shock, but no longer wants to hide what they are feeling and going through. The support from Tobi’s family is immediate and delivered without hesitation.
What really makes the scene more powerful is Éva’s openness. While holding back tears, she bravely acknowledges that she might make mistakes or say the wrong thing, that this will take time for her to process, but that she accepts and supports Tobi’s decision. What is immediately clear, is that Éva’s respect, love and admiration for her child are steadfast. It is an incredibly powerful, emotional and humbling scene to watch.
Look past labels
Colors of Tobi successfully documents (some of) the challenges faced by individuals and families affected by gender dysphoria. Clearly, Alexa Bakony is a filmmaker who understands the power of inviting us – the audience – to look past labels and to see the people. By documenting such a heartfelt and personal account, Bakony’s film will no doubt help to reach and engage those with antiquated world views, demystifying a section of society that is all too often marginalised, ignored or subjected to hate.
Colors of Tobi is a documentary about love triumphing over ignorance. It wears its heart on its sleeve and the family at its centre should be celebrated for their bravery in choosing to share their powerful story.
Note on Gender Dysphoria:
According to the NHS, gender dysphoria “describes a sense of unease that a person may have because of a mismatch between their biological sex and their gender identity.”
If you’re a young person or parent/guardian of a young person affected by gender dysphoria, please visit the Gender Identity Development Service website for information about support.
Further info: https://gids.nhs.uk/about-us
Colors of Tobi (Bakony, 2021) is being screened as part of the BFI’s Flare Film Festival, which is taking place between the 17 and 28 of March 2021.
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