By Michael Schnurr
& Jeffrey van Davis
Born for Africa
A love story during a time of civil war
During the backdrop of a bloody civil war, a German missionary in Africa and a British royal touring the continent fall in love. He is working class has no formal education and has taken vows of obedience, poverty and chastity; she is Anglican, university educated, comes from wealth, and her parents vehemently oppose their marriage, not to mention their impossible dream to establish a school for African children.
In 1967, a British royal, Gillian Steel (21), travels to South Africa during the time of apartheid. She wants to do social work in a township. Her parents have planned a career in the Foreign Service for her, but she is in search of a purpose in life. In South Africa she meets a German, Reiner Stommel (35), who works at a mission in the Southwest African bush. He is a brother in a Catholic order who has taken vows. But while the encounter for Gillian is initially nothing more than a holiday flirtation, it throws Reiner off track. Innocent in matters of the heart, he fantasizes establishing a school for African children with her at his side.
At first, they know little of each other: She doesn’t know he is a religious brother. He knows nothing of her royal background. Once they become aware of the huge social distance between them, it seems that this obstacle is insurmountable to overcome. But Reiner leaves the order and Gillian swaps her comfortable existence for the harsh life of a farmer‘s wife in the African bush.
Dealing with these challenges, shaped by the political and social conditions of a country at war, the constant struggle for survival becomes the common experience of their lives. The Southwest Africa Peoples Organization (SWAPO) is supported by Communist Cuban troops from nearby Angola. Most black workers support the war for Namibian independence including those on Reiner and Gillian’s farm. Within the ranks of white farmers lurks the constant danger of black farm workers striking back, which is understandable considering how terrible blacks are treated by the white farmers. Even though Reiner and Gillian treat their farmworkers with respect, it’s impossible to overcome centuries of exploitation of the white man over black Africans.
Caught between the SWAPO and the white farmers, Reiner and Gillian walk a dangerous path. When a white farmers organization tries to recruit Reiner to fight the rebels, Reiner refuses. There is always the dream to start a school for African children. Even in a time of war, they cling to the idea that it is better to educate people, than to kill them.
based on a true story
Excerpts from WeScreenplay, Hollywood
- The characters that you have created are compelling. I really enjoyed learning about REINER STOMMEL and how he forms an unbreakable bond with Gillian. The spirit of this character, who was committed to religious vows and who breaks them for the sake of true love, is fascinating. His portrayal as an honest and sensitive individual brought an emotional weight to the story.
- Every single character that you have written was able to bring a strong sense of depth to the story. You have done such a great job developing these characters with care and forethought.
- You have established the world of the story uniquely while still leaving an effective message about the power of love. You have also created an atmosphere that is very elegant, romantic, and believable for the characters while also exploring the dangers of the harsh reality of civil war. There were a lot of great scenes between Reiner and Gillian and how their love for each other reignites both of their worlds. Every bit of those scenes was heartwarming, devastating, gripping, and emotional.
- And finally, the ending that occurs on page one hundred and nineteen was deeply satisfying. It was a good sigh of relief to learn how Reiner and Gillian remain inseparable and how they were able to establish a farm school in Namibia in the years to come. Almost every single scene that you have written is done with such care and impeccable craft. There is almost no false note in any of these scenes.
- Overall, BORN FOR AFRICA is a striking piece of work that manages to amplify war, drama, and love with a strong emotional story at its very core. It is a beautiful story about some of our greatest wants while also confronting our deepest fears and challenges. You have invested a great deal of heart in the narrative while exploring ideas of love, and the harsh reality of war.
filmmaker, sceen writer & journalist
Michael Schnurr is a German filmmaker, screenwriter, and journalist (winner of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung’s Local Journalist Prize, 2014). As a filmmaker, he is responsible for a number of TV documentaries, including „Die Kinder von 48“ (Süddeutsche TV), „Die Regenbogenkampfin – Uta Bellion, Chairwoman of Greenpeace International“ (WDR) and „The Forgotten Children“(MDR). The filmmaker/writer, who now lives on Lake Constance, has produced films for companies such as Bertelsmann, Boehringer Ingelheim, and Helmholtz Association Berlin, and the Detmold College of Music.
Jeffrey van Davis
filmmaker & script writer
Jeffrey van Davis is an award winning filmmaker and script writer from Chicago presently living in Germany. His screenplay, Heidegger in Ruins, won a Silver Remi Award at the 48th WorldFest Houston Film Festival 2015. The short film MOMENTUM, which he produced, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. Jeffrey‘s film, 14th Place, which he wrote and directed, won a Silver Plaque Award at the Chicago International Film Festival. He received special recognition from the German Film Institute for JAZZ EXPATRIATES which was broadcast on German and American Television. His feature film ALL MY TOMORROWS won a Silver Remi Award at the Houston International Film Festival (work in progress) 2018, and a Bronze Remi in 2019. He won Best Indie Feature at Los Angeles Film Awards 2020, Best Director AOF MegaFest Las Vegas 2019, Best Director Hollywood Dreams Film Festival 2019, Best International Drama Feature South East Regional Film Festival Florida 2020.
of a tableread from the screenplay
„Born for Africa“.
Spoken by Antonia Schnauber
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