Two cousins, one family, and a community divided over the looming prospect of having their South African town used for mining. The movie “The Shore Break”, a World Showcase selection at the 2015 Hot Docs Film Festival, had its premiere on April 24 at the Hart House Theatre, with two more screenings (April 25 at the ROM; May 1 at the Isabel Bader Theatre) to follow. It’s a gripping documentary that shows what happens when the past collides with the future, bringing several important questions to the fore.
The main one is, should the Wild Coast town of Amadiba open its doors to a large scale mining operation, with the lure of a major highway linking them to the rest of the country thrown in to sweeten the deal? Or will a vital part of their culture and way of life be lost if the trucks roll in? Madiba seems to be in favour of it, while his cousin, Nonhle, adamantly opposes the proposition.
Another question “The Shore Break” grapples with is, what lines should be drawn in the sand when a touchy issue involves family members? In the beginning of the film, Madiba rationalizes his refusal to talk about the subject at family gatherings as a way of keeping the peace, while Nonhle is deeply hurt that her cousin won’t even acknowledge the growing rift between them. One is in favour of separation of family and politics, while the other sees no way the two can’t be unlinked.
Third, “The Shore Break” raises the question of what a town should do in order to secure its future. The issue of growth and expansion isn’t the one to focus on, but rather what form that growth and expansion can take. Is giving in to status quo the inevitable choice, or is it still possible in today’s day and age to hold out and maintain a grip on the past? There’s no denying the breathtaking beauty of the Wild Coast, with director and cinematographer Ryley Grunenwald doing a fabulous job in bringing its aesthetic qualities to the screen. But what good is a stunning landscape if nobody’s there to admire it? And is it even possible to introduce mining to the area without completely pillaging nature?
It’s difficult to watch the push-and-pull between Madiba and Nonhle in “The Shore Break” because of how seemingly unmatched they are. One cousin is willing to use any tool necessary to win, even if it means ousting the Amadiba royal family. The other one can’t, or won’t, stoop to such levels, even if it means potentially losing the cause.
Grunenwald does a fine job of showing both cousins’ personalities without forming too biased of an opinion one way or the other. There is a definite tilt in one direction, but overall, “The Shore Break” manages to look at both sides fairly to see what all the options are. But in doing so, Grunenwald’s pacing suffers a bit and moments drag on when they could be tightened up. Despite that, it’s a riveting look at the Pondo people and their struggle to retain the essence of their being.
“The Shore Break” has its premiere at the Hart House Theatre on April 24 at 9:45 pm, with two more screenings: April 25 at the ROM at 1:30 pm, and May 1 at the Isabel Bader Theatre at 6:30 pm. For more information or tickets, click here. You can also visit the film’s website or Facebook page.