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Escaping Nazi occupied Germany in the year 1938 was no easy feat for Jewish refugees. Many ventured as far as Kenya to evade Hitler and forge a life free of anti-Semitism.

Based on the novel by Stefanie Zweig, Nowhere in Africa chronicles the tale of Regina Redlich (Lea Kurka). A 5-year-old German girl who sets sail for Kenya with her mother, Jettel (Juliane Kohler), leaving behind a life filled with wealth, privilege and the ominous threat of war.

Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze), a former lawyer, immigrated to Africa to accept a farming job and save his wife and daughter from the foreshadowed reign of Nazi terror. While tending cattle on the rustic, burnt orange plains of Rongai, he meets Owuor (Sidede Onyulo), a native Kenyan from the local Masai, who works as the farm's cook.

Once Regina arrives, she forms an immediate bond with Owuor, sharing his fondness for native language and lore like a devoted tribe member. Jettel, on the other hand, doesn't share Regina's youthful resilience. Her willful, self-indulgence reflects a woman who disobeyed her husband's plea for a refrigerator in favor of a set of china and a ball gown.

So, Jettel's insouciance should come as no surprise to the audience when she tells sweet, unassuming Owuor if he wants to speak to her, he needs to learn German. Even Walter, who does know German, can't manage to speak to Jettel without screaming. Then, the unthinkable happens. War erupts, causing an even greater rift between Walter and Jettel, now considered enemy aliens and temporarily interned by colonial authorities.

Nowhere in Africa more than merits its Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Much of the credit for this achievement should go to Caroline Link's flawless screenplay about a family who strive to flourish in the face of adversity. The film, narrated by Regina, unfolds with the same flowing harmony as the desolate African landscape, beautifully photographed by Gernot Roll.

However, the film's greatest strength lies in its quest to examine whether Jettel's sense of belonging is a question of time or will. Her evolution, though slow and cumbersome, serves as the center of the film -- and one that prompts the audience to reexamine their own interpretation of the word "homeland." This journey of the heart culminates in a touching moment between mother and daughter where Jettel describes her place in the world. Her words, "We thought we were as German as we could be," ring with intensity, haunting the mind and fueling questions about the lines between geography and identity.

But Nowhere in Africa offers no simple answers, choosing instead to focus on the ambiguity of life's toughest questions. And create a film that remains as true to the human spirit as that innocent, young girl who welcomes change with open arms.

Tiffany Sanchez

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