No Simple Way Home condenses five decades of South Sudanese history but it concentrates on that history’s last four years. South Sudan lives on through its new generations as much as it does the old. And all these generations feel the influence of the world while trying to build its own identity. The documentary lets us hear the theme song to Curb Your Enthusiasm. It’s the ring tone of one of the de Mabior sisters. Both plan to meet and discuss South Sudan’s current political situation. That situation affects them directly since their mother Rebecca Nyandeng de Mabior might hold political office in South Sudan.
The de Mabior sisters are Akuol (also the director) and Nyankuer. They drive in and out of South Sudan’s capital Juba. These reveal the tenuous nature of everything, like the country and their status. They might be Rebecca’s daughters as well as John’s. The latter’s face showing up on South Sudan’s new currency since he did fight to free the country from Sudan. But they are also still women who have to face harassment from the country’s new military police. Or at least, unwanted sexual advances that they have to ward off.
The documentary then follows Rebecca Nyandeng as she does become one of South Sudan’s vice presidents. She talks to leaders of other countries like Nigeria. Akoul’s approach is understandable here. She humanizes her subject as her mother as opposed one of the most important people in South Sudan. But doing so makes it feel like her mother’s duties aren’t as important as they are. Akuol also uses other techniques here like her Malickian narration which borders on navel gazing. Akoul is a first time filmmaker and it shows here, but her sincerity here hints at better future work.
No Simple Way Home has its Hot Docs premiere on April 30, 2022.