A movie based on the memoir of a white woman in predominantly black Africa is an old idea. Nowhere in Africa, German writer-director Caroline Link’s adaptation of Stefanie Zweig’s book about her German-Jewish family’s escape from the Nazis to safety in Kenya, is new: It’s a window on an exotic minority within a white minority. (It’s also an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film.) Walter Redlich (Merab Ninidze), his wife, Jettel (Juliane Kohler, from ”Aimee & Jaguar”), and their daughter, Regina (Lea Kurka as a girl, Karoline Eckertz as a teen), move from Breslau, Germany, to a farm in Rongai, Kenya, in 1938; while the relationship between husband and wife tenses under the strain of dislocation, the daughter embraces her new life, befriended by the family’s Kenyan cook, Owuor (Sidede Onyulo).
Audience empathy for the displaced Redlichs, coupled with the filmmaker’s proffered charms of wise natives and their mysterious rituals, goes a long way toward making this lyrical travelogue a crowd pleaser. Then again, for all the novelty of the situation, the same charms root ”Nowhere” somewhere ultimately familiar: in movie-Africa.