Human Rights Watch Fest ’23: No U-Turn

Directed by Ike Nnaebue, No U-Turn gives the opportunity for the celebrated Nigerian director to revisit a journey that he made over two decades ago. Taking the route via Benin, Mali and Mauritania as a young man, Nnaebue was forced to turn back in Morocco and return home. Now, in his first documentary, Nnaebue is returning to the road left untraveled in a powerful story documenting the travels of undocumented men and women 

With each step in his journey, Nnaebue highlights the struggles of those who are undocumented yet looking to start a new life. Exploitation, violence and feelings of abandonment and shame are all threats that plague those who simply wish to find a fresh start across the border. Nevertheless, as they set out on their perilous trek, everyone is searching for one thing in common: home. Nnaebue notes that humans have a gift for making anywhere feel like home. As such, these people are looking to not only to reinvent their lives but to also build a new home and a future.

Perhaps more importantly though, U-Turn also delves deeply into the psychology behind making a journey such as this. Nnaebue argues that, due to the influence of British culture on the African people, there is a deeply rooted identity crisis within them as well. To him, white standards of language and beauty have created an aura of alienation within the population. As a result, they have begun to lose their sense of who they are and look to Europe as a way to find ‘hope’. Out of love for his home country, Nnaebue recognizes the failings of such a message and yearns to have his people stay to fight for a better life where they are. (“What can we do to ensure that people dream in their own country?,” he asks.) In this way, No U-Turn sets itself apart by crying out for justice for those who seek asylum while, at the same time, calling them to ask where their ‘home’ truly lies.

No U-Turn is now playing at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. For more information, click here.

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