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Searching for Amani

Murder, climate change and hope all play a big part in a bereaved young Kenyan’s search for the truth - touching documentary premieres at the 32nd Raindance Film Festival

This emotionally impactful documentary looks at one young man’s pursuit of justice. Searching For Amani (“peace” in Swahili) focuses on Simon Ali, a young aspiring journalist who has been left bereft by the murder of his father in Kenya’s Laikipia County, home to a vast nature conservatory as well as many different pastoral communities. Approaching the matter as he believes a journalist should, he puts together the facts and suspects in order to find answers.

Following Simon in his amateur investigation, complete with cop show-style suspect boards, it’s a fascinating look into the value of journalism in all forms of life. Simon and his family could very well have given in to anger, resorting to the kind of violence that took their beloved patriarch from them. Instead, Simon is rightly convinced that uncovering the facts of the murder will lead to some form of closure. To him, knowing why it happened is the key to doing something about it.

Intriguingly, the investigation opens up a vast problem in the area. As mentioned in a newsreader montage, Africa is responsible for less than 4% of global emissions, but is one of the most aversely affected by climate change. This leads to desperation, where grazing land and water resources become battlegrounds as some communities turn to violence. Increasingly, these incidents become linked to the cause of death for Simon’s father, who worked at the conservatory. As the web becomes bigger, the film loses itself slightly, receiving a lot of information and history suddenly. The shift from personal quest to national controversy can be jarring, meaning the middle of the film can begin to drag.

We are soon brought back to the edge of our seat by Simon, the film’s disarmingly open subject. It’s admirable to see anyone affected by tragedy take such a stoic approach, but when that comes from a child it’s even more impressive. There are moments where he shows the effects of his grief, but Simon for the most part maintains a mature approach, even when questioning people who may be linked to the murder. From endearing smaller moments, like looking up how to be a journalist on YouTube, to his handling of the film’s emotional final 15 minutes, he has a presence that suggests this is just the beginning of a long career.

Searching For Amani can feel uneven at times, as the filmmakers become distracted by larger moments in the narrative that they repeat needlessly. On the other hand, it’s central quest is an admirable one, a lesson in the power journalism has to bring sense to chaos, and the impact a father’s love can have across the generations.

Searching for Amani premieres in the 32nd edition of Raindance, which takes place between June 19th and 28th.

By Victoria Luxford - 12-06-2024

London-born Victoria Luxford has been a film critic and broadcaster since 2007, writing about cinema all over the world. Beginning with regional magazines and entertainment websites, she soon built up...

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