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Nowhere in Africa
2002 - Not Rated. - 138 Mins.
Director: Caroline Link
Producer: Peter Herrmann
Written By: Caroline Link
Starring: Juliane K
Review by: Jennie Kermode
The worldwide release of this film was much delayed, so, despite its success at the Academy Awards (Best Foreign Language Film 2002), it arrived in cinemas with little advanced publicity, and consequently struggled to pull in audiences - this in addition to the fact that it was filmed in a mixture of German and Swahili, and often badly translated, reducing its general accessibility. I'd like to say that it's worth the effort, since a lot of it is very good, but it has several flaws. The first of these is that it's far too long - two and a half hours, with a great deal of repetition therein; it could easily have been cut down. Repetition is a deliberate device in this true story, as we watch a German refugee couple living in Kenya during the Second World War squabble and make up repeatedly, but it doesn't take as much repetition as this to get the point across. This is the film's second major flaw: ultimately, it's hard to care about whether or not the couple do stay together. Each seems much happier when they are apart. They get on each other's nerves and don't seem to have much underlying affection for one another; they just have really good sex every once in a while and assume this means they're in love. At the start of the film they're staying together for the sake of their young child; at the end of it, they've found another young child to force them into what the audience can only expect will be a further decade or so of misery.

What saves this film is its own relationship with Kenya, the performances of the African supporting cast, and those of Lea Kurka and Karoline Eckertz, the two young girls playing (at different ages) the couple's child. Most of the usual cliches about going native are avoided, and the film is refreshingly matter-of-fact about the girl's experiences in crossing the cultural divide. The Kenyan tribespeople are neither patronised nor revered. There are no ferocious animals nor overplayed grotesqueries to force the pace of the story; the only monsters are those which the couple bring with them. What remains is a rich and lively picture of a successfully multicultural and multiethnic society, which not only contrasts dramatically with the film's brief portrait of Nazi Germany, but has plenty of valuable suggestions for the modern international age.
Movie Guru Rating
Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not. Average but solid.  Fans of this genre will probably enjoy it.  Others may not.
  3 out of 5 stars

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