Ariel Phenomenon: Based on the true story of the Ariel School UFO sighting, witnessed by over sixty schoolchildren in Zimbabwe

Ariel Phenomenon

Based on the true story of Zimbabwe’s Ariel School UFO sighting, witnessed by over sixty schoolchildren

Directed by Randall Nickerson

Premiering and for purchase at

May 20, 2022 

“I enjoyed the film greatly. It puts the issue in a touching, emotional place.” 

– Emmy Award-winning actor and filmmaker Dan Aykroyd

“A unique and moving film, made with humanity, honesty, and a sense of awe. I highly recommend it.” 

– Author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record Leslie Kean

“Ariel School Phenomenon is powerful, life-affirming and brought me to tears.”

– Director and producer Josh Boone

“Ariel School Phenomenon brings the mystery alive, revisiting the scene and tracking down original witnesses still struggling to fathom the unfathomable.” 

– Award-winning journalist for The New York Times and author Ralph Blumenthal

“The most effective story told on the subject that I have ever seen.” 

– Director and special effects supervisor Douglas Trumbull

Watch the Ariel Phenomenon trailer here.

New York, NY – April 29, 2022 – String Theory Films announces the much-anticipated release of Ariel Phenomenon, the new feature documentary directed by Randall Nickerson. The film explores the infamous Ariel School UFO sighting, witnessed by over sixty schoolchildren at Zimbabwe’s Ariel School in 1994. 

In this first feature film about the event, the story weaves never-before-seen archival media with a cinematic score and striking cinematography that covers a former students’ journey back to the African school – the place that, at the age of nine, shattered her reality. Interviews with witnesses, now scattered across the globe, ask the question many have struggled with for over two decades: what happens when you experience something so extraordinary that nobody believes you? 

The documentary follows Pulitzer Prize-winning Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Mack’s visit to the Ariel School; his validation of the witnesses made this mass-sighting impossible to ignore. Also profiled is respected BBC war reporter Tim Leach, whose reluctant coverage of the event led him to risk his career on the one story that haunted him the most.

Audiences may recognize the event from The Phenomenon, the 2020 film directed by James Fox, which dedicated the last twelve minutes to the Ariel School incident and left viewers hungry for a longer film on the subject.

Ariel Phenomenon is uncommon in its approach to the topic of UFOs: the story focuses on the experiencer’s inner turmoil.  That emotion is what Nickerson and his crew set out to capture in the film. “If you subtract the UFO element, this film is simply about the human experience of dealing with, and having to keep secret, a traumatic event that invites judgment,” says Nickerson.

Christopher Seward (Fahrenheit 911, Sicko, One Child Nation, People’s Republic of Desire) collaborated as writer and supervising editor; Los Angeles-based composer Nathaniel Walcott (The Fault in Our Stars, Stuck in Love, pianist for Bright Eyes and touring pianist with the Red Hot Chili Peppers) crafted an expansive score.

The late Douglas Trumbull (special effects supervisor of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Blade Runner) hailed it as “the most effective story told on the subject that I have ever seen.”

The story touches briefly on the career of Dr. John Mack, who, in addition to interviewing the Ariel School students, delved further into the research of alien encounters, authoring the book Abduction: Human Encounters with Aliens, while coming under academic review by the Harvard Medical School for his controversial studies. “What’s possible is a matter of worldview,” Mack argues in the film. “What’s real in this culture is completely different from what’s true in other cultures.”

Extensive travel to interview past witnesses, and research to unearth student drawings, photographs, and never-before-seen footage, took over fourteen years, and has resulted in Nickerson’s first feature-length film. “My team and I dug up every type of primary document and media source we could find,” says Nickerson. “Everything in the film is authentic. We didn’t use special effects. You can’t recreate what people actually saw – but the audience can imagine it. And that will make it even more impactful.”

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