Screened as part of NZIFF 2011

Sleeping Sickness 2011


Directed by Ulrich Köhler

Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness is a springboard for this remarkable drama which sees Africa through the eyes of a white expat doctor addicted to the place, and a black French doctor newly arrived to the continent. Best Director, Berlin Film Festival.

Germany In Dutch, French and German with English subtitles
91 minutes

Director, Screenplay


Janine Jackowski
Maren Ade
Katrin Schlösser


Patrick Orth


Katharina Wartena
Eva Könnemann

Production designer

Jochen Dehn

Costume designer

Birgit Kilian


Pierre Bokma (Ebbo Velten)
Jean-Christophe Folly (Alex Nzila)
Jenny Schily (Vera Velten)
Hippolyte Girardot (Gaspard Signac)
Maria Elise Miller (Helen Velten)
Sava Lolov (Elia Todorov)
Francis Noukiatchom (Monese)
Ali Mvondo Roland (Ruhemba)
Isacar Yinkou (Joseph)


Berlin 2011


Best Director, Berlin Film Festival 2011


Sleeping Sickness is a marvel, springing off Conrad’s Heart of Darkness with its perceptive slowburn of a story about a German doctor (the splendid Pierre Bokma) stuck in Cameroon for reasons he can’t wholly explain. It’s structurally bold, making an unannounced forward leap of three years in the middle, and switching focus to the Marlow role of a young, black Parisian colleague (Jean-Christophe Folly, funny and bewildered), who’s posted to check on him… I think it’s the best thing here [in Berlin], both for confidently diagnosing the rotten state of international development in Africa, and giving us rich characters who retain a bit of mystery.” — Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

“Ulrich Köhler’s striking film, which won Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival, roams through the incongruous terrain of contemporary Africa like a restless insomniac with eyes wide open.” — Clare Stewart, Sydney Film Festival