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Kenyans Proud of <i>Nowhere in Africa's</i> Oscar Nod - 2003-03-25


Kenyans are delighted that a film shot in Kenya, won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film at this year's ceremony Sunday in Los Angeles. Although the movie was produced by a German company, Kenya's film and tourism industries are both hoping to benefit from the publicity surrounding the award.

Jenny Pont, the head of the Kenyan production unit for the Oscar-winning film Nowhere In Africa, says she hopes the Academy Award will boost the fortunes of Kenya's struggling film industry.

"I am really proud but I am also proud of my team as it was a real team effort," she said. "And I am just thrilled for Kenya because we need this for our fledging film industry, we need the publicity, and also for tourism. I think this movie will definitely bring benefits to Kenya."

Nowhere in Africa tells the story of a Jewish family that flees Nazi Germany in the 1930s to live on a remote farm in Kenya.

The couple finds the transition challenging, putting their relationship under serious strain. But, their young daughter, settles in well, making friends with the family's Kenyan cook, Owuor. The film is based on the autobiography of the daughter, Stephanie Zweig.

The makers of Nowhere in Africa say they had to fight to film in Kenya. They were under pressure from cautious investors to shoot in South Africa, which they saw as less corrupt, safer, and more technologically-advanced.

Ms. Pont says she hopes the success of Nowhere in Africa will improve the image of Kenya overseas, and make it easier for other filmmakers to come here.

"I think one of our main drawbacks here is the media giving the wrong impression of Kenya and I am afraid to say your State Department advising people not to come here," she said. "This makes it very difficult to film for film productions to get insurance to bring crews here and they cannot get the insurance, so they do not come, they go to South Africa."

In recent years, several Kenyan stories, like I Dreamed of Africa and Ghosts and the Darkness, were filmed in South Africa. Most flopped at the box office amid criticism that they lacked authenticity for, among other things, substituting South African Zulu actors for Kenyan Maasai tribespeople.

Industry players hope the success of Nowhere in Africa at the Oscars will have the same kind of impact that Out of Africa did when it won the award for Best Picture in 1985, encouraging foreign filmmakers and tourists to flock to Kenya.

Kenya's economically vital tourism industry is experiencing a slump following U.S. and British government warnings earlier this month that the country could be targeted by terrorists again. The U.S. embassy in Nairobi was bombed in 1998, killing more than 200 people, and late last year an Israeli-owned hotel in the coastal town of Mombassa was bombed, killing 15 people.

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