This remarkably assured third feature by the young German director Ulrich Köhler—winner of Best Director at this year’s Berlin Film Festival—transports us to Cameroon, where German doctor Ebbo (Pierre Bokma) and his wife have spent two decades combating an epidemic of sleeping sickness in the local villages. Soon, they will return to Europe and to lives long ago put on hold, and this has created a crisis for Ebbo, who, like Joseph Conrad’s Kurtz, has spent too much time up river to ever come back down. Meanwhile, a young black doctor—a Frenchman born to Congolese parents—travels to Africa to evaluate the efficiency of Ebbo’s program. But when he arrives, nothing goes according to plan, and despite his heritage, he feels very much a stranger in a strange land. Finally, the two subjects of this haunting meditation on Africa’s past and future dovetail—effortlessly, seamlessly—and the cumulative impact is stunning.
Why you should see Sleeping Sickness: NYFF Spotlight.