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Watch Ilẹ Wa, a short film about finding inner peace in your homeland

The short narrative film – which takes its name from the Yoruba for “our land” – follows a young Black man reconnecting to his roots.

11 Jan 2023

The very concept of ‘home’ is challenged and contorted so often in history for a diaspora that has been forcibly moved, subsequently dispersed, or left in an unrecognisable landscape by colonisation. For this month’s Shorties we are showcasing Ilẹ Wa, a short narrative film that explores these concepts through the eyes of a young Black man.

Throughout the short film that was shot in Nigeria, we become immersed in the world of the young man. But his world is intentionally vague: are we in an African country? Are we in the Caribbean? There’s ambiguity around the location of this film because ultimately the filmmakers felt that a lack of specificity made space for a sense of unity from both sides of the Atlantic ocean. The vast majority of Black Caribbeans have West African heritage due to the transatlantic slave trade. So, regardless of whether you are of Caribbean descent or African if you’re lucky enough to pilgrimage to do Detty December to rediscover the motherland, or you’ve never left Britain – we all have common ground. 

The short film is anchored by a patois spoken word poem. Assumingly the young man’s inner monologue, we are taken on a journey from root to seed to flower, exploring the dichotomy between being indigenous but moving to a different country. Jedidah M, the film’s writer and director, explains that she was born and raised in Nigeria, but has lived most of her life in the UK in an interview with Guap. Remembering and reconnecting with our roots, paying homage to the people that came before us. This context makes the decision to have the voiceover narrated by someone speaking in patios all the more special. Especially paired with the knowledge that Ilẹ Wa is Yoruba (a language spoken in West African countries like Nigeria and Benin) the film is blurring the lines of ‘home’. Additionally, this ambiguity emboldens the film’s understanding of ‘home’ and ‘land’ once again, suggesting that you don’t need to live in the country of your ancestors to feel connected to your heritage. 

The film itself feels expansive with the immense music score and sound design by Derrick Mensah paired with the cutting narrated poem written and recited by Aiden Harmitt-Williams, Ilẹ Wa offers a space for reflection and soul searching. Towards the end of the film, we see the young man walk barefoot through foliage and onto the beach, where he stands looking out on the horizon contemplatively. Eventually, he plunges into the sea on his back, and the screen cuts to black.

Written, directed and produced by the creative platform We Are Soul, the film is part of their Soul Purpose Campaign. The group provides a space to support people from disadvantaged backgrounds to thrive in the creative industries. As an extension of their work in the UK, The Soul Purpose Campaign is all about social justice and positive change in developing countries.