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Best Foreign Film 2002

Lea Kurka and Sidede Onyulo,
running like antelopes
Nowhere in Africa
by Marcy Dermansky

Guide Rating -  


Caroline Link's "Nowhere In Africa" has the look and feel of an old-fashioned movie. In an age of sharp editing and fast-paced filmmaking, the German director takes ample time (140 minutes) to adapt Stefanie Zweig's autobiography, a moving story of a Jewish family who flees the Nazi regime to take refuge on a remote farm in Kenya during the Second World War.

There are countless films about the Holocaust, but I am always amazed by how many stories are still shocking and new. A Jewish community in Kenya? I had no idea.

The Redlich family immigrates to Kenya before the onset of war, but when war is declared, the family is taken to internment camps run by Britons. There is a wonderful moment when the German women, who experience harsh existences on their farms, are resettled in a luxury hotel in Nairobi. "Mama," the five year old Regina says, gleeful, taking in the grass lawns and the servants dashing about. "This is the nicest prison."

"Nowhere in Africa" tells two different stories. Link examines the complicated negotiations in the marriage of Walter (Merahb Ninidze), a lawyer who, relegated to farm work, loses his self esteem, and Jettel (Juliane Köhler), a cultured, beautiful woman who deliberately packed the family China rather than a refrigerator and blew the last of their money on a fancy dress.

But the film's true joy is Regina, their irrepressible daughter. The girl takes to Africa in way that her adult parents cannot. Five year old actress Lea Kurka is a marvel--cuddling an infant antelope, rattling off Kiswahili, and exploring her transformed landscape barefoot with the cook and unofficial family angel Owuor (Kenyan actor Sidede Onyulo in a warm and wonderful performance.)

"Nowhere in Africa" has sweeping theme music, stunning cinematography (it was shot on location in Kenya) and a well-told story that offers a unique slice of history. The film received Best Foreign Language Film award at this year's Academy Awards.


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