Ryley Grunenwald shares her behind the scenes story as the award winning eco documentary The Shore Break premieres in South Africa this week!
South Africa’s Wild Coast is my favourite place in the world – it has a rugged, mysterious beauty. Since my great-great uncle was posted on the beach to look out for German U-boats during the Second World War, generations of my family have spent their holidays there. When my father returned from a fishing trip to tell me that SANRAL was planning to build the Wild Coast Toll Road and an Australian mining company wanted to mine the beaches for titanium, I imagined the environmental destruction of this paradise. Only later would I learn how deeply it affects and divides the people living there.
I went on a fishing trip with my father and met Nonhle Mbuthuma who is a leader in her community against the highway and the mine. She was so hardcore. 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.
In the early stages of filming I was only aware of how the titanium mine and highway threatened the homes, farmland, graves and traditional lifestyle of the people living in their pathway. However spending time with Madiba, Nonhle’s cousin, 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 widely spread eco-tourism could develop the area without their having to give up their land and livelihood. Throughout production I kept changing my mind about 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.
Personally, I would be devastated if what I believe to be the most beautiful part of South Africa is damaged with mining and a highway. However it’s really not my call. It should be the people living on the affected land who decide what kind of development they want.
Sign The Petition NOW if you would like the mining to be stopped.
(Two great examples of responsible eco tourism on the Wild Coast with true community ownership are Bulungula Lodge and Mdumbi Backpackers, bookmark them if these photos made you hanker for your next road trip…)