BETWEEN THE RAINS, Kenya 2022
By: Dr. Claus Mueller
BETWEEN THE RAINS, Kenya 2022, a documentary co-directed by Andrew H. Brown and Moses Thuranira had its world premiere at the Tribeca Festival 2023 and received awards for Best Documentary Feature and Best Cinematography. Filmed over a period of four years in Northern Kenya alongside the Turkana-Ngaremara community, during a period in which it has suffered from a drastic decline of rainfall, this outstanding production provides superb visual insights into the real impacts of climate change.
BETWEEN THE RAINS reveals how a years-long draught threatens the survival of the tribal community, destroying the socio-economic basis of the herding economy and traditional culture. Enmeshed in the community, the directors and producers of the documentary present community perspectives and refrain from the kind of editorializing frequently found in documentaries about environmental issues. A Shaman inspects intestines to intuit the future and advises that harmony with nature and rain will be restored if traditions are retained. Some members of the community think that the soil has died, that the tribe’s life will end, and that customs have become obsolete. The absence of rain overpowers the reality of the tribe, but most understand the calamity through the context of traditions. As articulated by Kolei, who is at the center of the documentary, “Nature is the only power that can destroy us”. Kolei also insists, though questioning their future, when speaking to his younger brother Patrick, that herding is their only way of life and that becoming a warrior is Patrick’s fate. Over the long periods the documentary covers, the Turkana-Ngaremara community, and the family of Kolei and Patrick, face constant conflicts. Their herds are thinned out by the absence of water and rustling of their stock by a hostile tribe from across the river. The apparently well-armed members of the Yukana tribe cannot offer an effective defense nor can the rarely present soldiers protect them. The audience experiences many traditional rituals of the village and its members, from dance, music, animal sacrifices for the gods, and celebrations which seem to be as important to them as the concern with the threat of the drought. Grazing of the herds in the lands of a hostile tribe across the river would result in more violent armed tribal conflicts. The Shaman suggests that defeat of the enemy may restore harmony with nature and bring rain back.
BETWEEN THE RAINS is an important documentary. The close collaboration with the village ensured that the filmmakers portrayed a fully grounded vision of the Turkana-Ngaremara community despite the climate crisis confronting them. During the first production year, there was no filming because all members of the crew spent considerable time with the 172 members of the village. Except for Brown, producers and directors came from the same Turkana tribe with an identity shaped by that background. Co-director Moises Thuranisa was a trained journalist and community organizer, and his collaborator the American Andrew Brown lived and worked for a decade in sub–Saharan Africa and spent several years in Kenya. Outstanding cinematography, frequent handheld filming in close ups or wide range shots, night and daytime filming, and the incorporation of many unscripted sequences and events transformed BETWEEN THE RAINS into a rare, exquisite example of a model documentary. The documentary is devoted to the over 34 million pastoralists living in East Africa.