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Nowhere In Africa

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Nowhere In Africa

Starring: Juliane Kohler, Merab Ninidze
Director: Caroline Link
Rated: NR
RunTime: 138 Minutes
Release Date: March 2003
Genres: Drama, Foreign, German

*Also starring: Matthias Habich, Sidede Onyulo, Lea Kurka, Karoline Eckertz, Silas Kerati

Review by Susan Granger
3½ stars out of 4

Winner of this year's Academy Award as Best Foreign Film, writer-director Caroline Link's "Nowhere in Africa," based on Stefanie Zweig's autobiographical novel, chronicles the trials and tribulations of an upper-class Jewish family that escapes Nazi Germany in 1938 to live in Kenya.

Working as caretakers on an absent owner's farm, the Redlich family must cope with sudden and unexpected poverty along with the alien culture of East Africa. Jettel (Juliane Kohler), the mother, initially cannot adapt, refusing to unpack her belongings or to learn Swahili. "We're alive, but what are we alive for?" she whines. Meanwhile, her husband Walter (Merab Ninidze), once a successful attorney, is haunted by the past. And their marriage is in jeopardy as Jettel refuses her husband's amorous advances, spurring him to note that she's only interested in making love when he's a lawyer. Ironically, Jettel's attitude improves when the British herd the persecuted German refugees into separate prison camps, since the women are sent to live at a posh hotel, complete with high tea and sumptuous lobster buffets. Jettel even has a brief sexual encounter with a British officer but that interlude is never fully explored.

The tale is told through the eyes of their resourceful daughter Regina (played by Lea Kurka as a child and later by Karoline Eckertz) who thrives on the dry, dusty African plains. And the most intriguing, appealing character is dignified Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), the charismatic cook. Gernot Roll's photography, particularly of the locust plague, is superb, as is Niki Reiser's score. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Nowhere in Africa" is a culturally conflicted, episodic 8. In German and Swahili with English subtitles, it's about strangers in a strange land.

Copyright 2002 Susan Granger

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