HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW of Nowhere in Africa


Title:  Nowhere in Africa

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: German

Running time: 140 minutes

MPAA Rating: N/a  (NC-17)

Distributor and Production Company:  Zeitgeist

Director; Writer: Caroline Link; based on a novel by Stefanie Zweig


Cast:   Jettel Redlich: Juliane Kohler
Walter Redlich: Merab Ninidze
Regina: Lea Kurka
Susskind: Matthias Habich
Owuor: Sidede Onyulo
Regina: Karoline Ecke

Technical: Very wide screen (like CinemaScope)

Relevance to HPPUB site: “privilege”


 This epic won the 2002 Oscar for best foreign language film. The story relates the emigration of a Jewish family from Germany to Kenya in Africa starting in 1938, their adventures in a more primitive land, and their return after World War II.  As the film opens, Walter Redlich has actually moved first, and he encourages his wife and daughter Regina to come, and bring as little as possible.


Quickly the story becomes a social and political morality tale. Jettel resents the adjustment and has trouble accepting her husband’s fall in social status (he was a lawyer in Germany), and at one point her husband lectures, “you have no right to a privileged life.”  The didactic lesson here is that family cohesion and staying alive are more important than personal accomplishment, which can provide psychological escape from family.  The point is made that the Jews in Germany would have been loyal Germans if it were not for Nazism.


But then Jettel becomes attached to the land as the couple is moved around, kept as enemy prisoners by the British at one point in a luxury hotel. At the end, it is Walter who wants to go back to postwar Germany and become a war crimes judge.


As is common with dramatic European films, a very few scenes are extremely sexually explicit, as in one scene where underage Regina displays sex play with a native. The American rating system is unwilling to give such films even an R rating, so their distribution becomes very limited. But clearly in this film the explicit scenes are justified by the story and arguments presented. We need to get over this NC-17 problem.



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