Of all the places Jewish families found safe haven during the dark years of Hitler's Holocaust, few could have been more far afield than Kenya. But that's exactly where six-year-old Stefanie Zweig and her parents wound up, thanks to her father's foresight and the efforts of Nairobi's Jewish community. As an adult, Zweig penned two autobiographical novels based on her experiences before and after the war. This beautiful and consistently engaging film from German director Caroline Link is based on the first, Nirgendwo in Afrika, in which a Silesian girl named Regina Redlich and her family abandon their comfortable, middle-class lives in Leobschutz for the desert wilds of Africa. Rongai, Kenya, 1938. Regina's father, Walter (Merab Ninidze), a once-prominent attorney prohibited from practicing law by the Nazis, has already emigrated, but lies deathly ill with malaria in the small house on the British-owned cattle farm where he's found work as a caretaker. Walter is cared for by Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), a native Kenyan who serves as the farm's cook; by the time five-year-old Regina (Lea Kurka) and her mother, Jettel (Juliane Kohler), arrive, Walter has regained his strength. Regina adores the desert and she and Owuar immediately become friends, but chic and sophisticated Jettel — who spent the money Walter sent her for a refrigerator on an evening gown — is horrified by the drought-stricken conditions in which she's expected to live. Life is made marginally easier with the help of Susskind (Matthias Habich), a fellow Jewish refugee toward whom Jettel feels a growing attraction, and when the rains finally come, the farm begins to flourish. Storm clouds of a different sort, however, are gathering over Europe, as radio reports and the few letters from home bear witness to the growing nightmare that will soon destroy the friends and family they left behind. When England and France finally declare war on Germany, the Redlich family are blindsided by a unforeseen development: Once thought of as Jewish refugees who fled Germany to save their own lives, they're now considered highly suspect German nationals and subject to interment. True to the voice of Zweig's novel, the film is told through the eyes of Regina, but it's really Jettel's story; she's the one who learns to confront her own prejudices and embrace her new home with open arms. Beautifully shot on location in Kenya and filled with touching, almost magical moments, Link's film has been nominated for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: NR
- Review: Of all the places Jewish families found safe haven during the dark years of Hitler's Holocaust, few could have been more far afield than Kenya. But that's exactly where six-year-old Stefanie Zweig and her parents wound up, thanks to her father's foresight… (more)