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18 movies, fictional books, and academic works on migration

The United Nations designates specific days as occasions to mark particular events or topics to promote, through awareness and action, the body’s objectives. Today, December…

The United Nations designates specific days as occasions to mark particular events or topics to promote, through awareness and action, the body’s objectives. Today, December 18th 2023, is the International Migrants Day. We at the Daily Trust will reflect on migration and the millions of migrants worldwide in a series of articles that will run throughout the week.

Let’s start with 18 movies, fictional books, and academic works on migration. But, the title of this article should have been 6 movies, 6 fictional books, and 6 academic works on migration. However, we decided not to tow that path because of what 666 represents in Christendom!

Some well-regarded books and movies delve into the complex and multifaceted topic of migration. Several filmmakers and authors have touched on the theme in their works, either as a central or peripheral element. Our list includes a mix of academic works, non-fiction narratives, and fiction that offer different perspectives on migration, addressing its social, economic, and personal dimensions. But depending on your specific interests, you may find certain movies and books more resonant than others.

Here are the synopses of the books and loglines of the movies we have selected.

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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The book tells the story of a young Nigerian woman, Ifemelu, who immigrates to the United States for education. It addresses issues of race, identity, and belonging. It’s the third book by Adichie – a Nobel Laureate in waiting!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

This classic, published in 1939, talks about the experiences of the Joad family, forced to migrate westward during the Great Depression in search of a better life. The book, which won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

The novel follows the lives of Japanese picture brides who migrate to the United States in the early 20th century. It captures their hopes, struggles, and challenges. The book won the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction (2011), the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (2012), and the Prix Femina Étranger (2012).

Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue

The novel explores the lives of two New York City families during the 2008 financial crisis: the immigrant Jonga family from Cameroon, and their wealthy employers, the Edwards family. In 2022, the book was included on the Big Jubilee Read list of 70 books by Commonwealth authors, selected to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II.

Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Set in an unnamed African city, this novel explores the lives of characters in a vibrant, chaotic nightlife scene. The book touches on themes of migration and the search for a better life. This exuberantly dark novel was nominated for the Man Booker International Prize in 2016. A year earlier, it won the Etisalat Prize for Debut African Fiction.

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Based on the author’s father’s journey, this novel tells the story of a young Somali boy’s travels across the Horn of Africa during the 1930s and 1940s. It won the 2010 Betty Trask Award and was shortlisted for lots of awards, including the Guardian First Book Award, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize. The book was also long-listed for the 2010 Orange Prize for Fiction.


The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

This historical narrative chronicles the migration of African Americans from the southern United States to northern and western cities between 1915 and 1970.

The Shadow of the Sun by Ryszard Kapuściński

A collection of journalistic essays that capture the experiences of people across Africa, including stories of migration, displacement, and the impact of political upheavals.

The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History by Elizabeth Kolbert

While not entirely on migration, the book explores the impact of environmental changes on various species, including humans, and the migrations forced by these changes.

The Age of Migration by Stephen Castles and Mark J. Miller

A comprehensive academic work that provides an overview of migration patterns, theories, and policies on a global scale.

We Crossed a Bridge and It Trembled: Voices from Syria by Wendy Pearlman

A collection of testimonials from Syrians who have experienced the war and migration. The book provides a powerful firsthand account of the Syrian crisis.

The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between by Hisham Matar

A memoir that interweaves the author’s personal story with the political history of Libya. It explores themes of exile and the search for belonging.


No Dogs or Italians Allowed (2022)

At the beginning of the 20th century, living in Ughettera, Northern Italy, had become difficult for the Ughetto family. And they dreamt of a better life abroad. Luigi Ughetto crossed the Alps and starts a new life in France. It changed the destiny of his beloved family forever.

The Last Shelter (2021)

On the edge of the Sahel Desert lies the peaceful city of Gao in Mali. Gao is a quiet way station for people with their eyes set on Europe in hopes of finding opportunity and a better future. The movie is an emotional portrait of this town and the altruistic people who live in it.

Dirty Pretty Things (2002)

The film explores the lives of immigrants in London, focusing on a Nigerian doctor and a Turkish housekeeper who become entangled in a web of illegal activities.

Human Flow (2017)

This documentary explores the global refugee crisis by capturing the journeys of refugees across 23 countries. The report provides a comprehensive look at the scale and impact of migration worldwide.

Anchor Baby (2010)

This drama revolves around the lives of irregular migrants in the United States. It explores the challenges faced by a Nigerian couple living in the U.S. as they struggle with immigration issues and the desire for a better life.

30 Days in Atlanta (2014)

This comedy movie follows the adventures of a Nigerian man who wins a trip to Atlanta. While not primarily focused on migration, it provides a light-hearted take on cultural differences and experiences in a foreign country.


Zama Zama (2012)

The movie tells the story of two Zimbabwean brothers who travelled to South Africa in search of a better life but became involved in illegal mining activities. It sheds light on the harsh realities faced by migrants seeking economic opportunities.

London Fever (2016)

The movie follows the journey of a young Nigerian man who travels to London in search of a better life. It explores the challenges and experiences of immigrants in a foreign land.

Samba (2014)

This French film with Senegalese themes follows the life of an undocumented Senegalese migrant living in Paris and working odd jobs. It addresses issues of immigration policies and the challenges faced by migrants.

Frontieres (2008)

This Moroccan film depicts the struggles of migrants attempting to cross the border between Morocco and Spain. It provides a raw and realistic portrayal of the challenges faced by those seeking a better life.

Borders: Crossroads of Europe (2018)

The documentary talks about the experiences of migrants trying to cross the border between Morocco and the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.

Wulu (2016)

The movie follows a young bus driver in Bamako who becomes involved in drug trafficking to secure a better future for his sister. It touches on issues of economic migration and the choices people make to escape poverty.

The Unseen (2007)

The story centres on a young Algerian man who dreams of reaching Europe by crossing the Mediterranean. It provides a glimpse into the struggles and aspirations of North African migrants.

And here’s one to watch out for…

Tentative Title: Footprints of Home

Genre: Drama/Adventure

Release Date: December 2024

Production Team: The Migrant Resource Centre (Benin City, Abuja, and Lagos)

Logline: When economic hardships and political instability force a close-knit Nigerian family to make the tough decision to migrate, they embark on a perilous journey across borders in search of a better life. The movie explores the challenges, sacrifices, and triumphs of their migration.

Did you enjoy our collections and the one yet on born? Let’s have your views in the comment section below.

Akhidenor can be reached via [email protected]

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