Foreign Film Spotlight: Nowhere in Africa

This contribution is for movie-buff friend, Alex Raphael, who invited me to review a foreign film of my choice. Have you seen the 2002 German Best Foreign film Oscar winner by Caroline Link? Are you craving full-bodied characterizations, an unsentimental saga, and stunning cinematography? How about an amazing autobiography about a Jewish family who finds refuge and culture shock in Kenya? Stefanie Zweig passed away this past April. Give both the book and the film adaptation a go.

Escaping the Nazi regime in 1938, a Jewish family become farmers in remote Kenya. Walter Redlich is a judge and his wife Jettel is fond of her comfortable life-style and resents her barren life. Their five-year-old daughter, Regina, is an inquisitive girl who adapts to the culture of Kenya and a Christian boarding school. Half of the narrative focuses on a girl growing up and the other half focuses on the strained marriage of Walter and Regina.

The film’s strength rests on the acting and the unique plot. Actress Juliane Köhler plays the complicated Jettel Redlich with sophistication. Swaying with coldness and frustration and tenderness, as was her portrayal as Eva Braun in Downfall (2004), in Nowhere in Africa, Juliane Köhler is convincing. A marriage of compromise and frustration with secrets and resolution, it is a worth your time to watch the evolution of their marriage.

Add a parallel plot that twines through the starving marriage to their daughter, Regina. Her friendship with farm cook, Owuor, counter-balances the marriage with heartwarming richness. Owuor functions as nanny and bridge between Europe and Kenyan lifestyles. For Regina, who might have well as been transplanted to Mars as Kenya, Owuor is indispensable as the consistent element, the North Star of her universe. As a coming-of-age story for Regina and Jettel (Mom’s more a child than ner daughter) grow up and handle their plight with satisfying enlightenment. Poor Walter Redlich, played by Merab Ninidze, who endures his tempestuous wife and worries about his parents left in Nazi Germany. Cheers to female director and writer Caroline Link for creating a fine film. Did you see in 2008, A Year Ago in Winter? 

Don’t forget to check out Alex’s entertaining blog: Alex Raphael Blog

15 thoughts on “Foreign Film Spotlight: Nowhere in Africa

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  1. I’ve watched “Nowhere in Africa” several times. It is a very good movie and tells a unique story.

    I’ve not seen “A Year Ago in Winter”, though, and cannot comment on that.


      1. I don’t pay any attention to such events as the Academy Awards, etc. and my selection of movies to watch is based generally on whim. When I started watching “Nowhere in Africa”, I wasn’t sure what it was going to be. Based upon the early scenes, I said, “Yes, a Holocaust film.” My feelings changed, though, as the movie evolved.

        The setting could be any place, the Outback of Australia, the Great Plains of the U.S., the Steppes of Russia . . . any place. “Nowhere in Africa” tells the story of immigrants exchanging a place of few possibilities for one of hardship and struggle. For me, that is what makes it a great film, a film with a universal story.


          1. It has been a long time since I last read Ole Edvart Rolvaag’s book Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie, but when I watched Nowhere in Africa, it gave me the same feeling. What do you think?


          2. OOhh, thanks, Allen! I have not read it; it’s right up my alley of research. Norwegian immigrants surviving on the Prairie. In Illinois we had a large base of Swedes tame the prairies and the Norwegian were a little more to the north of us. This looks great. Thanks for the tip!


          3. Giants in the Earth, I’ve been told, was not widely read in the U.S., In Norway, though, it is supposed to have been a best seller for years. That suggests that it captured the essence of immigration and survival in a new world.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Cindy!!! So excited to watch these movies, and Allan helped because ever since I interviewed a Holocaust survivor and did a ton of research, I get anxious about watching Holocaust films! Now, a granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to the Bronx, I am looking forward to seeing “Nowhere in Africa.”


    1. wow, that was a mouthful: ” granddaughter of Russian Jewish immigrants to the Bronx”. I liked this film a lot because it didn’t have the typical horrifying images and violence. Another one I HIGHLY recommend is ‘Rosenstrasse’ and you’ve probably seen ‘Life is Beautiful’. All three examples bypass the gruesome details and focus on heartfelt stories. Thanks, Barbara 🙂


  3. I just watched ‘Nowhere in Africa’, based on your recommendation, and am so glad I did. Our family has its share of holocaust and wartime survivor stories, but seeing this one played out in Africa is a chilling reminder of life’s contingencies.


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