Saturday, December 23, 2006

Two Recommendations for Holiday Joy

1) Nowhere in Africa (Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001), German)

Focused on the story of the Redlichs, a German Jewish family forced to move to Kenya during WWII, the movie taps into the larger themes of displacement and adaptation. Having won the 2002 Oscar for Best Foreign Film, the film paints the expat experience in a thorough and satisfying way. Always with the Female Expat Project in the back of my mind, I naturally focused by how the international move affected each character. Every Redlich grows stonger, but the emotional weight of losing family to the Holocaust and new debates about home psychologically stretches them thin. The locust scene poignantly echos their struggle and the destructive nature of a survival of the fittest mentality. Some critics complain that the movie is buried in a nostalgic, rose-colored haze, but the view must recognize that the story is told from Regina's point of view. In this context, what is told and not told (the natives being painted with childlike wonder and the colonists practically ignored) makes more sense. I highly recommend this film to anyone experiencing the expat experience.

2) Happiness: A History by Darrin M. McMahon

I haven't read the book, but it's on my Christmas wish list so I'm hoping to write more about it in the near future. As expats choosing to bounce around the globe, searching for a life that is more satisfying, I'm curious to know how our innate restlessness and resulting lifestyle figure into a historical account of happiness. Perhaps the author (admittedly a friend from Florida State) does not tap into our particular twist on the quest for happiness, but I'm excited to read the book and find out. A fascinating premise for a book.

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