In Agadez, a city of Niger on the outskirts of the Sahara, migrants who have either fled Libya or been expelled from Algeria meet. All have dreams of moving to North Africa or Europe, and an encampment in Agadez, organized by a man named André, helps them do so illegally. In TEGHADEZ AGADEZ, a documentary by Morgane Wirtz, we meet these people and get a glimpse into the treacherous path they take to escape the dangers of their home country for a more promising future.
Being so close to the Sahara, Agadez is arid. Shots of red sand buildings glowing in the evening light, children kicking up dust as they run by, and raw meat at the market swarming with flies all give us a sense of how harsh the climate must be. Men in the camp are often shirtless, but everyone pulls on a hood of some sort when the wind slaps sand at their faces.
The camp itself is barebones. For weeks, migrants sleep in shared tents and ramshackle huts. Wirtz visits many of these lodgings to interview a few of the migrants. We hear Wirtz asking the questions, but we never see her; the focus is not on her. One woman explains to the camera that she has been waiting at the camp for two weeks but knows she could be there for months—transport is infrequent and migrants aren’t told when they’ll be leaving.
Nova Frontier Film Festival Brings Hard Life of Illegal Migration Into Clear View
Throughout the course of the film, we meet Fifty, Boubacar, Mudatheir and Myriam, four people who have left their home countries for a variety of reasons. They are interviewed as they lie in their encampments, sometimes smoking cigarettes or packing suitcases. Ever since 2016, when a strict law was passed in Niger that penalizes migrant-related economy, it has been incredibly hard for these four to migrate. We learn that Fifty, Boubacar, and Mudatheir were either imprisoned, tortured, or enslaved in their country of Libya. Myriam is hoping to return to her home city of Lagos, but can only afford to do so through prositution. A question underlying TEGHADEZ AGADEZ is why can Wirtz, as someone with a Schengen passport, travel freely to and from Agadez while people like Fifty, Boubacar, Mudatheir and Myriam cannot?
Despite everything, human perseverance and spirit shine through in this film. We see a pair of friends watching TV together as they lie on the floor. We see a man singing to himself. We see two women playfully wrestle over a phone. People are social, and they dance, play soccer, tell jokes and cook for each other.
At one point, Fifty and Boubacar are in a tent structure. Music is playing from a radio and Fifty is dancing. Boubacar sits on a cooler, swaying along to the tune. I haven’t seen my mother in ten years, he tells Fifty. Fifty keeps dancing. I want to see my mother, Boubacar says, smiling softly. Ten years.
TEGHADEZ AGADEZ is a film powerful enough to recommend to anyone. It might be especially enticing to people interested in immigration rights and activism.
For more information visit the website of the director, Morgane Wirtz.
Bombino & Maxime Devos
Images courtesy of Nova Frontier Film Festival
For more information on the Nova Frontier Film Festival where this film was featured visit the Nova Frontier Film Festival website.
About the Author:
Nell Beck is a rising senior at Oberlin College, where she is pursuing a BA in English. At school, she is co-editor of the literary nonfiction magazine and eats in a dining co-op. Raised in Montclair, New Jersey, she is passionate about books, art, and writing. Looking ahead, she hopes to pursue an arts-related career, travel a lot, and become a better baker.