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Woubi Cheri

; Toronto Iss. 69,  (Jun 30, 2000): 89.

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Woubi Cheri

Philip Brooks and Laurent Bocahut

France/Ivory Coast 1998 video 62 min.

Filmed on the Ivory Coast of Africa, Woubi Cheri is a documentary look at the gender outlaws who have formed the "Ivory Coast's Transvestite Association" (IVTA). Even though the group is identified as a "Transvestite Association," what becomes evident quickly are the ways in which many differently gendered but also differently sexed subjects who are referenced by the association's name. Meet the glamourous Barbara, President of the IVTA, who travels across the nation with her group of woubis determined to change the attitudes of controus, those who oppose the woubi lifestyle: "I do battle each time I'm out and about," Barbara tells us through a translator, "I spread my magic powder to turn controus into yossis [the young men who become lovers with woubis]."

Interestingly, many of the people interviewed in the documentary show the range of identities included in the IVTA. Both Vincent and Laurent, for instance, might quite easily find a home in the term transsexual or transgendered. Their lovers, Avelido and Jean-Jacques, along with Sostene, another yossi, might marry woubis, but then again, might not. "No matter what," Jean-Jacques argues emphatically, "we were both born men. Everyone must know that first." Depending on whether you privilege the sub-titles which certainly rely entirely on North American conceptual categories, or whether you privilege the visual representations and how they construct identities, woubi either refers to effeminate gay men, cross-dressing men, or pre- or indeed, non-operative transsexual/transgendered women. Their partners, yossis, are, and again, depending on which text you attribute definitive authority to (either the subtitles or the images), either young bisexual men, or, straight and married men who pursue woubis on the side, or gay men who like Avelido are attracted exclusively to woubis. Or, all of...