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Jewish lawyer Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze), his wife Jettel (Juliane Köhler) and daughter Regina (Lea Kurka/Karoline Eckertz) emigrate to Kenya in 1938, anxious to leave an increasingly hostile Nazi Germany. Regina blossoms in the new environment, making friends with their cook Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), but Jettel finds it much harder to adapt, causing a strain on the marriage. She finds great solace in her friendship with Susskind (Mattias Habich), a fellow German also in exile, but who has made his life in Africa. 

Review by Louise Keller:
Cinematic and emotionally rich, Nowhere in Africa is a gloriously heartfelt story about identity, love and cultural divides. Admittedly I have special interest in the subject matter – I spent my formative years in Africa – but there is something about that vast continent with its dusty, distinctive landscape and unique people that is like no other. I found the film extraordinarily moving on every level: we are involved with the characters’ dreams and disappointments and get a very real sense of being there. Karen Link has adapted Stefanie Zweig’s autobiographical best seller, not only from the point of view of the young daughter, but also from that of her mother, whose transition is in many ways so much more complex. She has to switch from the snowy setting of war-torn Germany to remote Africa where malaria, drought and isolation are daily issues. And Walter gives his lawyer’s black robe to his cook Owuor, explaining that he is no longer the senior chap in his environment. It’s Owuor who is now in charge. This is the beginning of a strong bond between not only the two men, but also between Owuor, Jettel and Regina. Jettel’s difficulties in adjusting to the place impacts on her relationship with Walter, and though they might both be living in the ramshackle, timber homestead together, they are actually struggling against different odds and living in different worlds. It is their relationship that suffers, and it’s not until Jettel learns to accept and love her surroundings as well as the people, that she finds herself. As a child, things are much simpler for Regina. She fits in easily with the local children, squealing with pleasure as she squishes her toes in warm cow dung and has no inhibitions taking off her clothes. It’s not until she is sent to school that she feels like an outsider. Wonderful performances from Juliane Köhler (who made such an impact in Aimée and Jaguar), Merab Ninidze (reminiscent of a young Dirk Bogarde), and the two young actresses (Lea Kurka and Karoline Eckertz) who play the young memsaab Regina at different ages, are both exceptional. It’s a wonderfully judged performance from Sidede Onyulo as Owour, but Mattias Habich’s Susskind will break your heart. We get a real sense of being there - with the tribal customs, the rhythmic music, the superstitions and unique lifestyle. Nowhere in Africa is a safari that we should all go on, offering a satisfying destination for the soul.

Notes on DVD extras by Andrew L. Urban:
The stilted, EPK style of the interview with novelist Stefanie Zweig – with the questions on cards in text to enable the material to be used by tv stations as if it was theirs – detracts from the content of this very honest and personal piece. 

Published January 1, 2004

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Nirgendwo in Afrika

CAST: Juliane Köhler, Regine Zimmermann, Merab Ninidze, Matthias Habich, Gabrielle Odinis, Karoline Eckertz, Herbert Knaup, Lea Kurka, Sidede Onyulo

DIRECTOR: Caroline Link

SCRIPT: Caroline Link (novel by Stefanie Zweig)

OTHER: LANGUAGE: English / German / Swahili

RUNNING TIME: 134 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 enhanced; DD 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: interview with Stefanie Zweig; trailers


DVD RELEASE: December 29, 2003

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