Based on the novel by Stefanie Zweig, Nowhere in Africa is the critically acclaimed film from director Caroline Link (Beyond Silence, A Year Ago in Winter). It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. This is a period piece set in the 1930's. The story follows the lives of a Jewish family who end up living within Africa as refugees. Over the course of many years, the film explores their experiences as intertwined with those of the Kenyan peoples.
Jettel Redlich (Juliane Köhler) and Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze) leave behind Germany to escape the horrors of the Nazi occupation. They set out to live a much different life in Africa. The journey brings them to new experiences, encounters, and a much different environment.
Bringing along their only daughter, Regina Redlich (performed in the film by two actresses, with Lea Kurka portraying the young daughter and Karoline Eckertz as an older teenage daughter), the family navigates the land with the help of a local cook, Owuor (Sidede Onyulo). Owuor treats Regina like a daughter and is often responsible for helping to raise her while her parents often bicker and fight about their circumstances while living under much different circumstances than they had been under while living in Germany. However, the family has no real option but to stay in Africa because of the Nazi occupation.
Exploring the familial relationship of these characters is a central component of the film. This is simultaneously a family drama and a tale of growing up. The film explores the life of Regina Redlich as she grows up living in Africa, surrounded by a significantly different environment than her parents were accustomed to.
The film has marvelous production design work done by Susann Bieling (The Adventures of Huck Finn) and Uwe Szielasko (The White Massai). It also benefits from some wonderful cinematography by Gernot Roll (Little Sharks) which highlights the beauty of the natural environment of Africa.
The music score composed by Niki Reiser (A Year Ago in Winter, Beyond Silence) is also another one of the film's greatest strengths. With a atmospheric score with instrumentation shining through, the score often feels like one of the best central components.
Caroline Link (Beyond Silence) wrote the screenplay and directed. Despite being impressed by some of the film's noteworthy production merits, it is unfortunate that I didn't have a stronger connection to the story. Though I can see why the film earned acclaimed by critics upon its release, the film ultimately left me feeling cold and detached from its storyline. Link has a impressive style as a director but this film isn't far removed from a generic Hollywood production that would be criticized for allowing style to overshadow substance. Nowhere in Africa has plenty of cinematic style but it doesn't utilize it well.
With characters that are so self absorbed being a huge part of the storytelling, it was aggravating seeing the constant love-hate relationship of Jettel Redlich and Walter Redlich. These characters constantly bicker, fight, and argue before making up with each other repeatedly over the course of the entire film. The relationship of these characters feels stilted: there's nothing even remotely romantic about their relationship to each other. Despite breathtaking imagery showcasing Africa, the storytelling falls flat with a lack of great characters to draw audiences in. Nowhere in Africa may be a beautiful looking film (on the surface) with excellent production merits but the story feels so detached that the end result is a lackluster, overrated, and droll experience.
Presented on Blu-ray with a 1080p MPEG-4 AVC encoded high definition presentation in the original 2.35:1 widescreen theatrical aspect ratio. This is a strong high definition presentation which has excellent clarity, depth, and color reproduction. The film has a naturally filmic HD look which will please cinema enthusiasts.
The German DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 has outstanding clarity and detail. The dialogue reproduction is excellent. This is a superb sounding release. With strong lossless audio, audiences will be pleased with the sound design and its implementation. It's greatest accomplishment is the soaring score being so well reproduced.
Optional English Subtitles are provided.
This release includes a number of supplemental materials from the previously released DVD special edition.
Cast and Crew Interviews: Caroline Link (Director), Peter Herrmann, and Stefanie Zweig (SD, 32 min.), Sidede Onyulo (SD, 9 min.), Merab Ninidze (SD, 19 min.), Juliane Kohler(SD, 21 min.), and Matthias Habich (SD, 17 min.)
Deleted Scenes (SD, 10 min.)
Making of Documentary (SD, 29 min.) focusing on the production of the film.
Storyboard Comparison (SD, 3 min.)
US Trailer (SD, 2 min.)
German Trailer (SD, 3 min.)
Nowhere in Africa is a beautiful looking film which showcases the breathtaking land of Africa. However, the film lacks great storytelling and characterizations. The Blu-ray features excellent PQ/AQ and a decent assortment of extras. However, newcomers should consider skipping it as the film is a sadly disappointing experience that misses the mark.