The movie begins in Germany during the Nazi period when Jews were being persecuted by Hitler regime. Walter, a very successful and established lawyer is forced to flee with his family to a remote area in Kenya a country in East Africa. All Jews were perceived as enemies of Germany thus they were rounded up and placed in concentration camps, tortured and brutally murdered.
Walter and his wife Jettel have one daughter who is called Regina. Being the only child coupled with the prosperous career of her father, Regina was brought up in a very affluent environment with lots of love and pampering. Jettel on the other hand is used to being a very influential lady in the society. Nevertheless, in order to save their lives the three have to leave Germany with absolutely nothing.
A friend advises Walter to migrate to Kenya and he concedes given that the entry permit fee is also low. Coming from a country where they were very influential and could easily get whatever they wanted, this family gets it rough in Africa. Bildungsroman is depicted when though a professional lawyer, Walter is unable to get a well paying job and ends up as a farm manager earning a very low income.
Consequently, Jettel finds it very difficult to adjust to life in Africa where she is not the high profile lady she used to be. It takes a lot of explanations from Walter for Jettel to accept the fact that she has to stay in this place for as long as it takes. The culturally insensitive Jettel has to learn to live with the African people though the movie depicts her discriminating against them.
Regina is only six years old when they leave Germany for Africa. Consequently, though she used to live a comfortable life in Germany, change of events did not have any significant impact on her. The young naive Regina almost immediately falls in love with Africa and adapting to the new life proofs an easy task. She loves the serenity of the environment, the local language, culture and the people.
On the same note, their houseboy Owuor becomes very instrumental in helping her learn the local language. Having settled well in Kenya and all the love from the parents and the houseboy, Regina feels at home and has no other problems. However, the government gives an order requiring all Europeans to take their children to school. Regina is at this point exposed to realities of life.
The young girl is forced to leave the comfort of her parents’ house and travel miles away to a boarding school. Being the only child in the family Regina must have had a very good relationship with her parents and life was as smooth as anyone could imagine. Nonetheless, she soon discovers that in a boarding school life is not the same and she has to take care of herself.
Life is complicated by the fact that she does not understand English a language that everybody uses there. In a nutshell, Bildungsroman is also depicted when Regina has to restart the process of adapting to a new environment. When World War II breaks out, Walter and his family are rounded up and separated. This causes problems to the family given that the family cannot meet and solve their issues.
Moreover, life becomes unbearable for the family especially the wife who has to go out of her way in order to get the basic needs. Young Regina, who hitherto knows that her parents work in order to earn money for their day to day expenses, learns that there is more to life than what she knows. She becomes aware of the fact that her mother has to sleep with another man in order to get a job and a home for them.
It is ironical that while the family escaped imprisonment from Germany, they end up being imprisoned in their refugee country. Bildungsroman is again depicted when the family drifts apart more after Walter decides to join the British army. Though he is a Germany national, Walter has to find a way of getting out of his predicaments and British army provides him with a safe haven.
Unfortunately, the distance increases the rifts already existing in the family. Jettel declines to follow her husband to Nairobi choosing instead to remain and manage their farm. In a bid to adapt to her lonely life, she ends up starting a relationship with another man. At school, Regina becomes absorbed into the English culture and forgets about the Germany culture where she was born.
She only learns about the events in Germany from the talks that her parents have sometimes. Ironically, despite Walter coming up with idea of migrating to Kenya and taking a lot of efforts to convince his wife why they have to stay in this country that is in a middle of nowhere, he has not lost his touch with Germany.
After coming back from the war he takes time to explain to his wife and child why they should go back to their country. On the contrary, Jettel has adapted to her life and finds it rather difficult to give up her life in Africa and go back to post war Germany. Regina on the other hand has grown up in Africa and has been socialized in a different environment than that of Germany.