Nowhere in Africa

Bomb Rating: 

Oh boy, another film about Jews and the Holocaust. Is anybody else sick of this subject matter or is it just me? And I'm not saying we can't have films about the Holocaust, but can we legalize a limit or something? How about a maximum of two per year?

What makes this film especially galling is that it's about a family of Jews who escape to Kenya and the audience is supposed to enjoy the catharsis of Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze), Jettel Redlich (Juliane Kohler) and their daughter, Regina (Lea Kurka & Karoline Eckertz), becoming one with the people and the land. But here's the thing: Who gives a shit about the white people in the African land when the Africans are starving to death and slaughtering each other in revolution after revolution? One can't exactly put a value on suffering, but one might guess the Africans know a thing or two about suffering themselves. Yet we're forced to follow the white, Western perspective. This complaint has nothing to do with the religion or the race of the protagonist. It has everything to do with filmmakers trying to find new settings for their stories and ignoring the stories of the natives.

And quite frankly, I'm sick of the idealized version of the Africans portrayed by virtually every character encountered by some stupid white person who doesn't know his or her way around the wilderness. And it's not just the Africans -- it's almost any native peoples living in any perceived oasis. Oh look, they're all wonderful and they'll help us when we need help. Owuor (Sided Onyulo) is the Redlich's servant. He cooks for them. He loves them. He's practically a surrogate father to Regina. These aren't people. These are gods. They're representations of the perfect human spirit. That must be why they're slaughtering each other like diseased chickens.

I guess we're supposed to be enamored with the transformation enjoyed by the Redlichs. They go through a lot. Jettel goes from a whiny, greedy, self-centered bitch into the prototype for the next President of Amnesty International. Walter goes from scared runaway to a man who discovers his identity and decides to stand up for himself. Regina grows up as the perfect child. The family comes together.

This, admittedly, is a difficult argument to make. Argue against so many films about the Holocaust and you're anti-Semitic. Claim there are bad Africans and you're racist. Admit you enjoyed two seconds of "Encino Man" and suddenly you're President of the Pauly Shore fan club. So, just to clarify my position: anti-Semites and racists are scum of the Earth, and Pauly Shore fans should be consigned to the lowest levels of Hell.

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