Ulrich Köhler: Sleeping Sickness (Schlafkrankheit)

Sleeping Sickness (Schlafkrankheit), Ulrich Köhler, 86’, France / Netherlands / Germany, ZDF 6.2.2013, OV with German subtitles

Ulrich Köhler brings together two autobiographical strands in this film: his time in Zaire as a child of parents who worked there and his return as an adult of European upbringing. The first part of the film is about Ebbo, a development aid worker, who spends his last days in Cameroon with his wife and teenage daughter before returning to Germany and ends up staying behind alone. The second part focuses on Alex, a young French doctor of Congolese descent, who travels to Cameroon to evaluate a sleeping sickness project led by Ebbo. Alex ultimately fails in his attempts to form a connection with the country. “For me, Sleeping Sickness is not a film about Africa,” says the director, “it’s a film about Europeans in Africa. It is a film about Europe.”

Ulrich Köhler (*1969) is a German director whose films belong to the Berlin School. His feature films have been shown at festivals and cinemas in Germany and abroad and have received numerous awards, including the Berlinale’s Silver Bear and Hessian Film Award. In cooperation with Das kleine Fernsehspiel, he made Bungalow (2003), Windows on Monday (2007), which also featured in the Berlinale Forum, as did Sleeping Sickness (2013).