The Shore Break 300
"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" - director Ryley Grunenwald. (Photo:

The Shore Break, a documentary about a local community polarized by plans to mine titanium on the Eastern Cape Wild Coast, will have its South African co-premiere at the Encounters International Documentary Film Festival in June and the Durban International Film Festival in July.

Directed by Ryley Grunenwald and co-produced by Johannebsurg-based Marie-Vérité Films and Cape Town-based frank films, The Shore Break was in competition at the recent International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and was named "best feature length documentary" at the 2015 International Environmental Film Festival in Paris.

The film was made under the Department of Trade and Industry's Film Rebate Scheme, with additional funding from the National Film and Video Foundation, Gauteng Film Commission, Ford Foundation, Knowledge Network and Heinrich Böll Foundation, among others.

Controversial mining, toll road plan

For the last decade, the community in the Amadiba area, in the heart of the breathtakingly beautiful Wild Coast, have been divided over a controversial plan to mine sand dunes and build a toll road through their ancestral land.

"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," Grunenwald said in a statement earlier this month. "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."

Grunenwald met Nonhle Mbuthuma, a young local eco-tour guide and a staunch supporter of her people and the environment on which their livelihood and culture depends, during on of her trips to the area.

"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."

'I wanted the audience to see things from both sides'

In the early stages of filming, Grunenwald was firmly on the side of Mbuthuma and the environment. However, spending time with Mbuthuma's cousin, Zamille "Madiba" Qunya, a local entrepreneur and self-proclaimed modernizer, forced her to take a broader view.

"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' … The complexity intrigued me, and I wanted to allow the audience to see things from both sides."

Grunenwald said she was struck by the amaMpondo's connection to their land and their determination to protect it for future generations.

"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."

The Shore Break has been selected for outreach use by the Bertha BRITDOC Connect Fund. It will have free screenings in the affected area, with decision makers as well as other communities facing similar development struggles. "We're regularly partnering with more NGOs who want to use The Shore Break in their work around development, community engagement, and extractive industries," said Grunenwald.

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 Justine Puren-Calverley.

The film will screen at Encounters International Documentary Film Festival taking place in Johannesburg and Cape Town from 4 to 14 June, and at the Durban International Film Festival in July.

It will also screen at the Sydney International Film Festival in June 2015. It has previously screened at the Festival Millennium 2015 in Belgium and at Hot Docs 2015 in Canada.

Source: staff reporter

Contact the Gauteng Film Commission