Wednesday, 31 August 2005

Minireview - Nowhere In Africa ****

A wannabe-epic autobiographical story of a dispossessed Jewish family during the Second World War, this almost, but not quite, succeeds admirably. Father, mother and daughter, with remarkable foresight, escape Germany just before the borders are closed and attempt to set up a new life on a struggling farm in Kenya, then under British rule. Whereas the young girl fits in quickly, making close friends with the native cook and local children, the mother cannot or will not except her dramatic change in circumstance and, horrifyingly, displays towards the local inhabitants the precise sort of racist intolerance that she herself has so narrowly escaped.

With the war itself raging a continent away, the historical action is progressed in the form of a long-wave radio and a few, sparse letters from relations as they are forced into ghettoes and eventually write no more. Meanwhile, with the start of hostilities, the family finds itself rounded up by the British and placed in prison camps, although these are, at least, relatively comfortable.

They are eventually released to manage another farm, this time with more success, and the daughter is sent away to an English boarding school, costing the family nearly all that they have. At the end of the war, the family must decide whether they now belong in Africa, or whether they should return to Germany and help rebuild it. And this is very much a film about belonging. The family start by finding themselves unwelcome in Germany and arrested in Kenya; by the end, they must decide where they are most accepted. In Africa, they still do not fit in, treated with contempt by the British, misunderstood by the natives, alienated because of their religion at school. There is strong sense that nobody truly belongs, certainly not the British ruling class, nor the native underclass that are forced to serve them.

A slow, beautiful ode to home and to family with great and occasionally moving performances all round, ultimately the only let-down is the lack of a sense of real threat, even during the arrests or when the letters from home dry up.

1 comment:

travisbrinick1339 said...
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