The Journey to Kafiristan | Chicago Reader

The Journey to Kafiristan

Brothers Fosco and Donatello Dubini based their script for this 2001 German drama on the diary of Annemarie Schwarzenbach, a Swiss writer and gadabout of the 1930s. In the months leading up to Hitler's invasion of Poland, Schwarzenbach (Jeannette Hain) and German ethnologist Ella Maillart (Nina Petri) traverse the Balkans, Turkey, Iran, and Afghanistan in a stylish Ford coupe, hoping to observe the storied nomads of the Kafiristan Valley north of Kabul. Yet the film is mostly an inner road movie about spiritually thirsting lovers; rescued from a Zurich asylum, Schwarzenbach tells her traveling companion, “I want to cross every border—with you.” The film is a window on the sort of orientalism that would be unthinkable for most Western women today. In German with subtitles. 100 min.


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