In Desert and Wilderness is a great family movie based on a novel by Polish Henryk Sienkiewicz. Set near the end of the 19th century, the film follows the adventures of two boys who accompanied their engineer father to Sudan, where he begins work on the Suez Canal project. Kidnapped for ransom by rebels from the Mahdi Rebellion, the children manage to escape along with two African boys. Together they make their way home through the African desert. Although the story is fictional, it is set in real historical events. It’s a foreign movie with subtitles, but the DVD offers a kid-friendly dubbed option. This internationally acclaimed, award-winning film is extremely family friendly.
Based on the autobiographical novel by Elspeth Huxley, The Flame Trees of Thika is a wonderful BBC mini-series that brings East Africa to life. In 1913, 11-year-old Elspeth traveled with her mother from England to Kenya to help build a coffee plantation. Directed by Roy Ward Baker, The Flame Trees of Thika is not just about one girl or one family; It is about colonialism. Thika Europeans are sure they are bringing culture to the uncivilized, not realizing what they are destroying in the process. However well-intentioned, the meddling of these adults in the affairs of the Maasai, Kikuyu and other locals often creates tension. In many ways, growing up in Africa makes Tilly the wisest of the bunch. At one point, she notes, “It’s like two completely separate circles that go around each other, their world and ours, and only occasionally touch.” This seven episode miniseries is extremely family friendly.
Spanning two continents, Nowhere in Africa tells the true story of a Jewish lawyer and his family’s escape from the Nazi regime in 1938 and their move to a remote farm in Kenya. Her daughter immediately sets out to explore her new magical world, but her mother’s transition is much more unsettling. A story about love, family, home, renewal and change, this heartwarming film received a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2002. German with English subtitles, Nowhere in Africa is family-friendly, but with moderately mature content.