An inspiring reminder that each of us can make a difference
By: Alberto Sclaverano
Thank You for the Rain is a powerful and moving 2017 documentary by Norwegian filmmaker Julia Dahr. What makes this film unique are the events that led to its conception. Long interested in climate change-related activism, Ms. Dahr arrived in Kenya about five years before the film’s release to show the world the devastating consequences of the climate crisis on local villages and small subsistence farmers. Amongst them, there was the man who would go on to be the hero of this incredible yet very real story: Kisilu Musya. A local farmer and father of nine children, Kisilu witnessed the degradation of their land due to prolonged drought induced by climate change. In the beginning, he agreed to leave Ms. Dahr to document his life and the struggle to provide food for his family but only on the condition he would have an opportunity to hold the camera and do a part of the shoots.
The film begins with a beautiful insight into the harsh but dignified and brave life of traditional farmers in rural Kenya. The movie shows all the damage that the climate crisis has created for people like Kisilu, making their land infertile and endangering the life of his family and his friends. Then a catastrophe happens, directly documented by Julia and Kisilu’s camera. A very violent storm with heavy rain hits the village and partially destroys it. The long-awaited rainwater had finally arrived, but it was in a lethal form. As scientists have long told us, floods and hurricanes are a consequence of climate change as much as drought and desertification. From this moment, Kisilu changes and decides to become a climate activist, driven by the desire to protect his family and community and to tell the world about the terrifying effects of climate change, which he has seen with his own eyes. He started to emerge as an inspiring figure, a leader for his people, and an advocate for some of the poorest people on the Earth, Sub-Saharan African farmers.
Western nations ravaged Africa of its natural resources and hindered its economic growth, yet they have the arrogance of ignoring the climate emergency that could lead to the destruction of the world in which Kisilu has grown. Climate change is largely a byproduct of countries with developed economies, such as the United States, yet countries with emergent or developing economies often suffer the most for some of its worst consequences, especially in terms of food scarcity and death caused by famine. The documentary ends with Kisilu going to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. He has the opportunity of speaking in front of large audiences and meeting with other activists as well as government authorities.
The Paris Agreement was signed at this conference. While it seemed to satisfy the heads of state, it is not sufficient for activists like Kisilu. In a very sinister passage, he watched on TV then-presidential candidate Donald Trump denouncing Obama for going to Paris and putting too much focus on “non-existent” threats like climate change. Trump would go on to be elected president on a platform that propagated climate change denial a year later, and almost immediately pulled the United States from the Paris Agreement.
The movie does not end on negative notes, nor does it seem to tell the story of a defeated warrior. Instead, Kisilu’s parable proves that everyone can make a difference if they want. Kisilu succeeded in creating a network, which helped to improve the conditions of his village. His message and activism reached a lot of people all around the world. This film is neither a blockbuster nor does it resemble more commercialised climate change-related documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth. Instead, it is a small but mighty piece of independent filmmaking that, just like its protagonist, has a vital message to deliver to everyone. Each of us can join the fight against climate change. Yes, we are running out of time and the behavior of the governments often does not help, but it is not too late to save humankind and our planet.