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Film Review: The Shore Break

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The Shore Break sets up a serious and determined fight immediately. On the one side, a woman declares that she will die for her land, and that she will not be the first to do so. On the other, a man declares that mineral in the precious area was treasure put by god, and he will unearth it. ‘Nobody will stop us,’ he states.

So the battle begins on the beautiful shore of South African’s Wild Coast.

However, these initial steadfast beliefs give way to nuanced arguments and passions on both sides. In this community of Pongo, the roads are made of dirt and mud, and many people enjoy simple living, raising animals and being away from development.

However, a mining development may bring jobs, may bring money, and may bring infrastructure to allow for services that will help locals. At the forefront of the campaigning is Zamile ‘Madiba’ Qunya, a charming, loquacious individual described as a local entrepreneur and one who stands as a champion for development while attacking those in his way. Set up as the villain, the more he talks, the more it’s clear he cares not for sensible solutions or communal interests.

Making the story all the more compelling is that Madiba and our dedicated woman from the opening are cousins.

For those engaged environmentalists watching, it’s such a familiar and frustrating story, one that shows a community pitted against the interests of a corporation. Director Ryley Grunenwald gracefully navigates a scenic coastal town, allowing the viewer to almost be at home, getting to know the many invested.

The Shore Break triumphs by beautifully showcasing a human quality, listening in on conversations held both in formal settings as well as around a dinner table or campfire. What’s more, the film explores the history and mythology of the region, as well as political changes that have happening over the years that have turning the region instable.

It culminates in a tension trial, as passion builds up all over; however this battle ends, there will be more here and all around the world.

The Shore Break is playing in Toronto as part of the Hot Docs International Film Festival through May 3.

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