Laemmle Theatres and the Anniversary Classics Series present 20th anniversary screenings of the Academy-Award winning film NOWHERE IN AFRICA as the next entry in the Anniversary Abroad Series of notable international films. (Following our September 13 screening of SOYLENT GREEN at the Royal with special guest Leigh Taylor-Young.) Coinciding with the High Holidays, NOWHERE IN AFRICA is about a German Jewish refugee family relocating to Kenya to escape the Nazis just before the outbreak of WWII, will play for one night only, September 20 at four Laemmle locations (Royal, Glendale, Claremont, and Newhall).
The Foreign Language Film (AKA International) Oscar winner in 2003, based on the autobiographical novel by Stefanie Zweig, was adapted for the screen by writer-director Caroline Link, who had been previously nominated in the same category for her 1996 film Beyond Silence. The story concerns the Redlich family, Walter (Mirab Ninidze), his wife Jettel (Juliane Kohler), and their daughter Regina (Lea Kurka as younger, Karoline Eckertz as older) who flee Nazi persecution in Germany in 1938. Walter leaves behind his law profession and becomes the manager of a British-owned farm in Kenya. While his nine-year-old daughter Regina takes to her new African life, his snobbish wife Jettel has difficulty with the family’s reduced status. They are attended by their Kenyan cook Owuor (beautifully played by Sidede Onyulo), who offers an African perspective to the tale. With the outbreak of WWII, the family is interned by the British along with all German citizens, an ironic twist since they had fled Germany to avoid such a fate in their homeland. The war and their plight put even more pressure on the strained relationship of Walter and Jettel, with Regina (now a teenager) caught in the middle.
Admiration from critics of the day included assessments from Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times, who said the film was, “laced with poignancy, conflict, urgency, and compassion.” Roger Ebert praised Link for her “interest in good stories and vivid, well-defined characters.” Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune cited it as “a lovely film with a deeply humane perspective.” Rita Kempley in the Washington Post called it a “consistently absorbing family saga that is primarily a safari of the soul.” Newsweek’s David Ansen noted, “an absorbing tale of cultural displacement. It’s also a remarkable, complex examination of a marriage…with its lush cinematography and lush score, (it) has the sturdiness of an old-fashioned Hollywood epic.” Some critics even called it perfect Oscar bait at the time, and the Academy members agreed, rewarding it with the Foreign Language Film Oscar.