Review: ‘Thank You for the Rain’

Hot Docs 2017

4 mins read

Thank You for the Rain
(UK/Norway, 87 min.)
Dir. Julia Dahr
Programme: International Spectrum (North American Premiere)


Kenyan farmer Kisilu Musya has a life-changing revelation when the clouds part in Thank You for the Rain. Musya experiences the consequences of climate change firsthand when his small farm endures severe drought followed by a near-Biblical storm of rain and winds that crash down on the land like the wrath of the Old Testament. This natural disaster is appropriately followed by a plague of (humanoid) locusts, which come in the form of the world’s leaders as they convene for the COP21 UN Climate Talks (the global Climate Change Conference) and ravage the hopes of farmers like Musya with their inertia. This compelling human portrait asks what the future holds when clear evidence of climate change presents itself and the most powerful politicians in the world choose to do nothing.

Thank You for the Rain is a significant character study and a piece of self-representation as digital cameras find their ways into the hands of marginalised citizens who aren’t being heard. The doc shows Norwegian director Julia Dahr befriend Musya while shooting in Kenya. She sympathises with his struggle as the drought leaves the land parched and the farmer without a viable crop. Dahr entrusts him with a camera to capture consequences of global warming and put a human face on climate change by offering images of his children and family in addition to the visible evidence of the variations in the weather.

The act of letting Musya speak for himself is compelling because it makes him an active agent in his own tale. He learns about climate change while recording and observing it. Moreover, he becomes a teacher for his fellow farmers. When the savage winds blow his roof clear into the fields of his neighbours, he uses the opportunity to teach them about the changing winds and explain why these severe swings in the weather are happening.

Thank You for the Rain also finds a significant lesson when Musya’s friendship and collaboration with Dahr brings him to Norway to see the lifestyle his colleague enjoys. Europe proves to be a revealing experience for Musya, but rather than fall into the cliché of cultural encounters, Dahr finds a story of enlightenment. As much as Musya enjoys the traditional ways of Kenya, he appreciates the efficiency of contemporary and industrial life in Europe and desires to bring change home.

Part of this mission involves attending the COP21 talks in Paris, France. Musya beams with pride when he accepts an invitation to give testimony and share how climate change affects a small farmer on personal level. Passionate words are ignored, as the general coverage of COP21 reported, and Thank You for the Rain finds Musya’s disenchantment with the stillborn summit as a snapshot for universal alienation.

Dahr never loses sight of her character’s strength and spirit, though, and Thank You for the Rain emphasises how one individual can help change the world through education. Teaching others about global warming, Musya is a role model to which others should aspire. Thank You for the Rain is an inspiring portrait of individual who knows that if one loves this planet, one must do all one can to save it.

Thank You for the Rain screens:
-Tuesday, May 2 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 6:30 PM
-Wednesday, May 3 at TIFF Lightbox at 1:00 PM
-Sunday, May 7 at TIFF Lightbox at 10:00 AM

Pat Mullen is the publisher of POV Magazine. He holds a Master’s in Film Studies from Carleton University where his research focused on adaptation and Canadian cinema. Pat has also contributed to outlets including The Canadian Encyclopedia, Paste, That Shelf, Sharp, Xtra, and Complex. He is the vice president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and an international voter for the Golden Globe Awards.

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