Foreign Policy Blogs

Nowhere in Africa (2001)

This film deserves the Oscar it received for best foreign language film.
It is the story of a young Jewish family that flees Nazi Germany in the late 1930s to Kenya.
Walter Redlich, who had been a lawyer in Germany, is left to manage a farm in a deserted region.  His wife, Jettel, and daughter, Regina, soon join him.
[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Director Caroline Link does a marvelous job of showing how difficult the transition is for the urban Jettel, who is frustrated and bewildered by the new world in which she lives.
The counterpoint to that is Regina who, as a child, soaks up the local language and habits.
Sidede Onyulo is excellent as Owuor, the family cook, who befriends the family and has a strong relationship with Regina.
The backstory is, of course, the war.
With precious little information from people in Germany, the Redlich family relies on the radio to hear updates on their home country. D-Day is mentioned and the viewer can’t help but see the contrast between the Kenyan hinterland and the beaches of Normandy.
At one point, the family is torn apart again when they are interned as “enemy aliens” by the British in Kenya because they are German. Jettel, seeing no other option, gives herself to man who can help her family when her husband has no job to which he can go back.


The only negative thing about this movie is that it crawls at times, but makes up for it in other ways.
The scenery is breathtaking and the characters believable. Link allows her subjects to morph slowly, their going native a gradual but powerful change.
Nowhere in Africa is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;