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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 03:39 GMT
Germany's road to the Oscar
Nowhere in Africa
The film swept the boards at the German film awards
German wartime drama Nowhere in Africa has won the Academy Award for best foreign-language film.

Nowhere in Africa has all the hallmarks of a classic Oscars favourite - an epic story dealing with the resilience of the human spirit during World War II.

It is about a Jewish German family - but is not a conventional holocaust movie.

Early in the film, before the film, they move to Kenya to escape the impending danger at home, so most of the movie is set in the bright, dusty landscape of African farms and villages rather than the darkness and rubble of Germany.

The central character is a young girl, Regina, who adapts to Kenyan life more easily than her parents, who feel isolated, dispossessed and helpless.

Nowhere in Africa
The film took eight years to make
"In these days in the world, there are a lot of refugees all over the world," producer Peter Hermann said.

"In our film, you can see what it really means in a very daily, simple way, to be a refugee, and what kinds of problems you have."

The film swept the board at Germany's national film awards, and Mr Herrmann said the win would be a boost to the film industry at home.

"It means a lot to German cinema because it's 25 years ago that the last German film really won an Oscar," he said.

"Sometimes we have a problem in our own country because American films are dominating the German market.

The American movies have a market of 80-85% and only 10-15% are German films. For us, an Oscar is very important to increase it."

'Whole world'

The nomination has already helped Nowhere in Africa reach a wider audience, he said - and the win will help it even more.

"The whole world today is looking to Los Angeles, and you would never be able to pay for such publicity that you can get with the Oscar."

To win the Oscar, he beat off strong competition from other nominees including Chinese epic Hero and controversial Mexican hit The Crime of Father Amaro.

Nowhere In Africa took more than eight years to make, and the project began when he was studying as ethnology in Africa, Mr Herrmann said.

When he moved into film-making, he began to look for an African story with a connection to Germany - and discovered the book upon which the film is based, by Stefanie Zweig.

It was an unknown story when he found it in 1995, Mr Herrmann said.

"I bought it very fast, and then the book became a bestseller so I was able to raise money for this movie.

"Then it was also difficult to find a director who was bankable enough to finance such a film. And then I met a young director, Caroline Link, and thought 'she is great, but nobody knows her'.

"But then there was another miracle - Caroline Link got a nomination for her first film, Beyond Silence, so she also was bankable and I was able to do the film."

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