Albino is a video diary, from two months I spent in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, in the popular neighbourhood Treichville, during the fall of 2000.
I knew the area well, from previous stays, and felt at home among its many immigrants from neighbouring countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Nigeria.
The idea for the film was to work with people I befriended locally, and to try and construct a cinematic, fictional parallel to the reality we shared, in simple scenes of people walking, talking and being in hotel rooms, to question my exotist gaze and to explore the potential for me to access their world.
When the political situation in the country tensed up, however, as the presidential elections neared–and president Guéï, a Christian from the South, was challenged by Alassane Ouattara, a Muslim from the North–the national discussion on what was local, and what was foreign, lend an extra dimension to it all.
Gradually slipping into what would become a civil war, tensions rose in the city and informed my film making. Hanging out with people from the opposing camps, snippets of their views and ideologies entered our conversations and made my attempts, to be one of them, all the more futile as well as poignant.
In a string of conversations, staged scenes, intimate moments and observations of street life, the film is a personal account of my romantic desire to be part of this 'exotic' world. My Western gaze and the ambition to tell a story, guide an otherwise unfiltered form of film making. It is all about how I was able to render real-life into a story, a fiction of sorts, as a foreigner with a camera and the means to film, while for the locals, who participate, there is no escape from reality.
In the end, when an Albino man (the actor Lazare) and a young woman (the actress Ange) follow one another in a poetic exchange of looks, Ange finally stares straight into the camera. Her gaze at once embodies her agency, as much as it excludes the viewer (and myself as an observant) from the realities present.