A FILM about controversial titanium mining will have co-premieres at the Encounters International Documentary Festival in June and the Durban International Film Festival in July.
The Shore Break unpacks the dilemma faced by a rural community on South Africa’s Wild Coast as to whether to support or resist a proposed titanium mining project that could fundamentally change their lives forever.
In the Amadiba area, the Pondo people have tended their traditional way of life for centuries. A proposed titanium mine and the government’s controversial plan to build a highway across this ancestral ground, has polarised the community with those that see it as the beginning of the destruction of a way of life, and others who see it as a beacon of economic hope for the region.
Nonhle Mbuthuma, a young local eco-tour guide, is a staunch supporter of her people and the endangered environment on which their livelihood and culture depends. She wants to develop eco-tourism in order to protect her community’s homes, farms, graves and traditional lifestyle.
Her cousin Zamille “Madiba” Qunya, a local entrepreneur and self-proclaimed moderniser, is fully supportive of the proposed mining operations and highway construction. Tired of his community living in poverty, Madiba scurrilously courts private capital and questionable government officials.
While the South African President deposes the pro-environment Pondo Royal Family, Nonhle rallies support with little more than dogged determination.
Directed by Ryley Grunenwald, The Shore Break was a selected project at the 2012 Durban FilmMart, the IDFA WorldView Summer School 2013, the Hot Docs Forum 2012 and the Hot Docs Dealmakers 2013.
Co-produced by two South African companies, Grunenwald’s Johannesburg-based Marie-Vérité Films and Odette Geldenhuys’ Cape Town-based frank films, it was in competition at the recent International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IFDA), and was named the best feature length documentary at the 2015 International Environmental Film Festival (FIFE) in Paris.
“South Africa’s Wild Coast is my favourite place in the world — it has a rugged, mysterious beauty, and our family has been visiting there for years. When I heard about the proposed mining and toll road through the area, I could only imagine the extent of the environmental destruction of this pristine area,” says Grunenwald. “I met Nonhle Mbuthuma, who is a leader in her community, on one of my trips there. When I found out her arch enemy in favour of the developments was her own cousin and that the South African Government had dethroned her environmentally-conscious King Mpondombini Sigcau, it felt like something out of Shakespeare. I had to make a film about it.
“In the early stages of filming I was only aware of how the titanium mine and highway threatened whatever was in their pathway.
“However spending time with Madiba definitely made me see things from a broader perspective. He pointed out things that I couldn’t deny: the Wild Coast’s dire need for more schools, hospitals and employment. He believed large-scale development is the only hope for change.
“On the other hand Nonhle wanted development that would last longer than the 25-year lifespan of the mine. She believed alternative development such as expansive eco-tourism could develop the area without their having to give up their land and livelihood.
“Throughout production I kept changing my mind as to who was more ‘right’ about the development of the Wild Coast. The complexity intrigued me and I wanted to allow the audience to see things from both sides.”
“We hope The Shore Break will be seen by a wide audience — not only to entertain but to raise awareness of what’s going on and to stimulate debate about the development of our most picturesque coastline.”
Exquisitely filmed with arresting cinematography, The Shore Break is edited by Kerryn Assaizky, with original traditional cross-over music by local musician Ntombe Thongo, and sand animation by award-winning animator Justine Puren-Calverley.