In this first feature documentary about the Ariel School UFO incident,

Ariel Phenomenon explores a close encounter witnessed by over sixty schoolchildren  outside their schoolyard in Zimbabwe. Over twenty-five years later, this incident is still fresh in students’ memories. They continue to search for answers – and the courage to speak their truth. A young woman returns to her school in rural Zimbabwe – the place that, at the age of nine, shattered her reality. We meet a respected BBC war reporter who reluctantly covered the event, ultimately leading him to risk his career on the one story that haunted him the most. Jeopardizing his reputation is Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack, whose validation of the witnesses made this mass-sighting impossible to ignore.

The Making of Ariel Phenomenon

Randall Nickerson at Ariel School in 2008

Nickerson filming in Zimbabwe, 2012

Nickerson’s wildlife photography – more here.

After researching the location of the Ariel School and visiting Zimbabwe for the first time in 2008, director Randall Nickerson contacted witnesses now living all around the world. He traveled three times to Zimbabwe and Southern Africa to film interviews, follow a past student as she returns to Zimbabwe, and to film landscape and wildlife cinematography.

Archival tapes, articles, audio: Director Randall Nickerson & team collected dozens of primary sources for the film. Even the call by BBC Tim Leach to Dr. John Mack is a recording Leach made of the voicemail left for Dr. Mack.

What do ‘Sicko’, ‘Fahrenheit 911’, the SXSW Grand Jury-winning ‘People’s Republic of Desire’, the Sundance Grand Jury-winningOne Child Nation’ & ‘Ariel Phenomenon’ have in common? They all had Christopher Seward on board! Chris and Randall went to high school together, and he was the story editor and lead editor on the film.

Soaring music was composed by Nathaniel Walcott of the band Bright Eyes & composer of Fault in Our Stars, and Henrik Astrom of The Vikings series, as well as tracks from Blue Dot Music.