Through an Immigrant Story, Adura Onashile Brings a Mother’s Love into Focus

The writer-director is making her first foray into feature filmmaking, with the intimate ‘Girl,’ which is debuting at the Sundance Film Festival.  Films about immigrant stories can often be weighed down by the doom, the tragedy, of all the things that go wrong for those seeking a better life in another country. And while there are many aspects to an immigrant’s story that cannot be overlooked, it’s what happens in the moments in between – the moments when a mother is just a mother, when a daughter is just a daughter – that deserve to be given space, too.

“People are still living their lives,” says Adura Onashile, the director behind Girl, which is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. “You tell a story about immigrants, and then we want to know how long they’ve been here, how they got here, what’s happening with their residency. It just becomes about the reality of being an immigrant in the west and, of course, that’s in the background, but people still have to have relationships. Your life isn’t immigration. Immigration is this thing that happens, but your life continues.” Onashile, who was born in London but spent her formative years of two to 11 in the university town of Zaria, Nigeria, has made a film that is a tender love story about the relationship between a mother (played by César-winning actress Déborah Lukumuena) who is trying not to smother her daughter with her own fears and worries. Yes, the mother is a Nigerian woman, living within the public housing system in Glasgow, but for Onashile, the story goes beyond the traditional one often seen on film.


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