Nowhere in Africa (2001)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Family Drama, Period Film  |   Release Date - Mar 7, 2003 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 141 min.  |   Countries - Germany  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Andrea LeVasseur

As narrated by young Regina, Nowhere in Africa is a straightforward tale of white people among the natives that is gently warmed by the affectionate viewpoint of a child. Though the upper-class Redlichs make it through culture shock, draught, locust attacks, and WWII, they don't ever suffer to the point of uncomfortable viewing. Rather, the attractive cast plays out a family drama full of intimate details set in the vast gorgeousness of the Kenyan plains. By the third act, the images scale down in scope making the once-overwhelming grasslands appear more like a pleasant community of trees and huts. As the central figure of Jettel, Juliane Köhler makes a believable transformation from fussy bourgeois housewife to independent farm manager. Though the narrative does get bogged down with domestic melodrama about the Redlichs' turbulent marriage, it is restored by the story of Regina, played wonderfully by both Lea Kurka and Karoline Eckertz. Bravely encountering each life-altering change, her innocent coming of age leads to sisterly wisdom as well as a liberal world view. The native Kenyan populations -- neither reduced to the background nor given a voice regarding the British colonial rule of their country -- are still sensitively captured in close-ups and granted some choice delicate moments. The house cook Owuor (Sidede Onyulo) is fully characterized as the glue that holds the farm and family together, not to mention the best friend and role model to Regina and language teacher to everyone else. The musical score by Niki Reiser also works to keep things wholly authentic yet tenderly satisfying.