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The White Masai

One of the most popular books of the last decade

When Carola (Nina Hoss) meets Masai warrior Lemalian (Jacky Ido) at the end of the Kenyan holiday she and her boyfriend Stefan (Janek Rieke) are enjoying together, she is smitten. On a whim she cancels her flight home to Switzerland and starts a journey to find Lemalian in his village of Barsaloi. There she starts a new life with Lemalian, but facing extraordinary culture clash and an unexpectedly unromantic life. But she perseveres, has a baby daughter, opens a shop and tries to adapt. Until she can see no improvement in her future life. Visually stunning, "The White Masai" is an unforgettable love story that takes us deep into the heart of Kenya. The course of true love is never smooth, and the story of a Swiss woman who marries a Masai warrior is romance at its most exotic. Based on the autobiographical novel by Corinne Hofmann, we feel every bump in the long dusty road in the middle of the African bush that Nina Hoss's Carola takes, as she sets out to start a new life. Hoss gives a superb performance, and emotionally we make the leap with her. With a body that puts Calvin Klein underwear models to shame, Jacky Ido is striking as Lemalian, his larger-than-life features showcased at every angle. Life in a remote village, living in a hut with the barest of essentials may seem simple, but that same life is overwhelmingly complex, when fundamental issues about culture, clash. Anyone who has ever fantasised about going to Africa will relish every moment of this haunting and astounding film. It is a life changing moment for Carola when she sees the imposing figure of Lemanlian, the Masai warrior, standing at the wharf in Mombassa, wearing colourful traditional costume. Words are unnecessary as their eyes lock. The connection between them is immediate. But the differences between the couple go far deeper than the colour of their skins. There are traditions to contend with concerning the place that women hold in society, tribal rituals, witchcraft, female circumcision and issues such as touching in public, to name but a few. Eye contact with another male can spark a tempest of insane jealousy. There are some miraculous moments, and the vision of a white bride in the midst of colourful tribal costume is incongruity at its most sublime. As is the Swiss cow bell around the neck of one of the goats in the herd. German, English and Samburu language blend as one in the same sentence, and black and white becomes like an artform in the sensual sex scenes. The mix of sweeping orchestral score with rhythmic African music helps keep pace and compellingly reflects the cultures. The beauty and vastness of the African landscape saturates us, and our journey is one of immense emotional investment. Louise Keller, Urban Cinephile

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Directed by: 
Hermine Huntgeburth
Running Time: 
German & Maa with English subtitles
Nina Hoss, Jacky Ido, Katja Flint, Nino Prester, Janek Rieke
Screenplay by: 
Johannes W. Betz based on the novel by Corinne Hofmann

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