Festivals Film Reviews Raindance Film Festival 2024

Review: Searching for Amani. Climate change is now: an eye-opener

  • Release year: 2024
  • Directors: Debra Aroko and Nicole Gormley.
  • Producers: Caryn Capotosto, Peter Goetz and Nicole Gormley.
  • Screenplay by: Debra Aroko, Vickie Curtis and Peter Goetz.
  • Cinematography by: Simon Ali and Campbell Brewer.
  • Music by: David Naroth and Monica Sonand.

Synopsis: a Kenyan teenager investigating the murder of his father ends up exploring and documenting the havoc wrecked by climate change in his country.

Shotgun Commentary: despite its presentation as a mystery, it is actually a very slow-paced nature documentary.

Simon Ali riding with his younger brother. Source: Searching for Amani
(Debra Aroko and Nicole Gormley, 2024).


Searching for Amani is a documentary that registers Simon Ali’s life from the moment he begins to investigate his father’s death until after he makes peace with that event of his life. The film has had its European premiere at Raindance to a full house.

Regrettably, the excited audience, amongst which was yours truly, had to imagine most of what was going on during the first half hour of film since the subtitles were nowhere in sight. Most of the spectators had started second guessing their knowledge of English when the festival’s team got wind of the problem and swiftly fixed it. From then on, the screening was smooth sailing, ironic considering the theme of the feature.

Reality meets art

The fact that Ali is cinematographer and protagonist, but not the director nor the writer of the documentary, is a very interesting and original dynamic. The result is a soundly structured narrative with very clear emphasis on specific themes, that works wonderfully with Ali’s extroverted and almost playful style.

This “best of both worlds” situation is capable of bringing forth heavy subjects such as the deaths of relatives and species, while keeping the content entertaining, light, and beautiful, even in its tragedy.

Not the ending you expect

The bottom line is that climate change is the bad guy. This conclusion is right…and wrong, both in narrative and practise. While it is climate change that is killing animals in their habitats and making people go desperate enough to resort to murder, the film skims through the fact that people are the reason for global warming.

Simon Ali. Source: Searching for Amani (Debra Aroko and Nicole Gormley, 2024).

There are a couple of shots of cities, and it is mentioned that people suffering the most from global warming are usually the ones who do the least to provoke this phenomenon. However, it would have been more balanced to see a more in-depth comment on the issue and its origin, especially considering what is sacrificed to get that final villain. If one is to change their goal so drastically and leave the main storyline so open, there better be a good substitute. Still, this big bad is relevant worldwide, which helps create a suitable ending, albeit slightly anticlimactic.

Looks are everything

Another fact that helps the audience to accept the last-minute change is, of course, the cinematography. The colour palette of the whole feature is stunning. Earthy colours rule the screen, creating beautiful contrasts between the warm browns and oranges, and the vibrant greens and blues. These tones are all part of nature and, as such, they get together in perfect harmony. The result is shots that, while sometimes are devastating in meaning, never cease to have that Fibonacci-sequence quality to them.

(Don’t) pace yourself

The editing has its highs and lows. The combination of human and animal perspectives, through interviews, conversations and a bird’s eye view of the environment, takes the audience on a journey that shows the full scale of the situation and helps them understand why the ending is so.

Sadly, the tempo of the story suffers greatly from the slow shots that are meant to let you reflect on what you are seeing. There is such thing as too much reflection in a film, and this one gives you more than enough time to actually begin thinking about something else.

The complete opposite happens with the credit scenes, a dynamic compilation of moments that showcase the reasons behind this piece and glimpses at its aftermath. Thus completing the picture for the audience in a fun, engaging way.

All in all, Searching for Amani is an interesting documentary about the devastating consequences of climate change. It doesn’t deliver the villain you expect, and the painfully slow pace can make you lose interest, but it makes its point clear with impactful shots and honest interviews.

Advice to take from this movie:

  • How you market something is very important to not give the wrong impression.
  • Climate change will kill us all, and the first to go will always be the least guilty.
  • Talent for cinematography comes at any age, you just need to have something important to say.
Simon Ali recording a fire. Source: Searching for Amani (Debra Aroko and
Nicole Gormley, 2024). Courtesy of: Raindance Film Festival.

What’s your take? Have you watched Searching for Amani? What do you think of the change in its focus? Don’t hesitate to let me know your thoughts in the comments section below, or leave a message in my contact page! For more reviews and cinema-related articles, check out the rest of my blog! 😀

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