MALI

Teenage filmmaker highlights the struggle for young LGBTIs in Mali

In a short film produced at a workshop in Mali, a young homosexual man is roughed up during a reconstruction of the incident at his school. (Screen grab from the short film, below)
In a short film produced at a workshop in Mali, a young homosexual man is roughed up during a reconstruction of the incident at his school. (Screen grab from the short film, below)

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Being gay is still a taboo in Mali, a country where the LGBTI community still only exists in the shadows. A young filmmaker, however, recently dared to address the topic. His short film chronicles the everyday life of a young gay man who faces humiliation and physical violence at school.

The film's lead character is a young, effeminate Malian, Fayçal, who is widely suspected of being gay by his classmates. The five-minute production captures how school has turned into a living nightmare for Fayçal, complete with insults, mockeries and physical violence. Heavy silences punctuate the sequences to create an unsettling atmosphere. In one disturbing scene, two classmates corner Fayçal, then beat him and urinate on him. At the tragic end of the film, the students who treated Fayçal so badly are forced to face up to the cruelty that they inflicted.

The film was produced in partnership with 'les Ateliers du regard', a non-profit organisation led by a group of students from the European Foundation for Image and Sound Trades (Femis), a film school in Paris. Nineteen-year-old Fasséry, the actor-producer who features in the film, told France 24 that he “used the opportunity to talk about a community of people who suffer and whose differences have left them marginalised".

"Making this short film was an act of courage"

Bouna Chérif Fofana is a Malian filmmaker. He oversaw the production of '17', the age of the protagonist when he wrote the script, on behalf of 'les Ateliers du regard'.

In Mali, there aren't any film schools. Young people who are drawn to filmmaking have to learn on the job and take advantage of these kinds of training schemes.

The students from ‘les Atelier du regard’ have worked with Malian filmmakers to create around 30 short films that tackle a range of issues, from the situation in northern Mali to immigration. But the taboo against homosexuality is just as big an issue in Malian society, so we wanted to ensure it was given just as much attention.

"Some people in the audience clapped when when the young protagonist got beaten up in the film"

When the film was shown at the French Institute [in Bamako], the reaction was lukewarm. Many people were open-minded and happy that we had tackled the issue. But other people reacted badly. For example, when the young protagonist gets beaten up by two of his classmates, some people in the audience actually clapped.

Fasséry has received threats but we're fully behind him. It took guts and courage to do what he did. Homosexuality is part of our society. We can't just put our heads in the sand or lash out because it won't change anything. We hope that this film will encourage more people to reflect and speak up about this issue.

In Mali, although homosexuality isn't a punishable offence, there are no laws to protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from violence and discrimination.

Malians have tended to blame the LGBT community for the country's ills. When the Radisson Blu hotel in the capital Bamako was attacked in November 2015, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, President of the High Islamic Council of Mali, blamed the gay community, calling it 'a divine punishment [...] to punish us for encouraging homosexuality". The attack left 20 people dead, after gunmen took 170 people hostage in the luxury hotel.