Documentary work: the making of Buried in Earthskin and more fishy stories.


The making of Buried in Earthskin

I raised my first bit of funding at the World Summit in Johannesburg 2002, from an American organization called the Wilderness Wisdom Fund.  This lead to the making of Buried in Earthskin: (completed 2009 after receiving funds from the Heinrich Boll Stuftung and the National Film and Video Foundation.- SA)

(During that time I had two babies, got married and moved house more times than I care to remember.  I also started my environmental awareness production company: Earth Shine Productions. )

I learned a lot about energy:  electrical energy political power, and physical personal energy and exhaustion on a human level!  I was multi-tasking: single-handedly producing, directing and researching a documentary about nuclear energy vs renewables, while simultaneously writing articles for parenting magazines and learning about becoming a mother.   But finally the film was finished, and it has since travelled to festivals around the world and been broadcast across Africa carrying itself along on its own steam.  I was delighted when it came full circle by making its way to the following World Summit for Sustainable Development in Rio 2012, where it screened at the Museum of Art as part of the Uranium Film Festival.  I was honoured to receive a “Special Achievement award”

What made it all worth it was when one day I went back to the fishing village of Buffeljagsbaai, which is near to the place where the company holding the monopoly on South Africa’s energy grid plans to build a nuclear power station in the future.

 Sarah Niemand, the woman I originally interviewed there is the most amazing, down- to- earth, power house of a sea-queen.  Her home is right on the edge of the ocean and the salt of the sea is engrained in every fibre of her being.  She spoke so well at hardly a moments notice when I interviewed her for the film.  (She had just stepped out of the car, having driven home from a funeral in Arniston a fishing village about 2 hours drive away.)  In many of these small villages, fishing is not a sustainable livelihood anymore.  Most have turned to poaching Perlemoen, which is not sustainable either, but that’s another long story.  Arniston is overshadowed by arms testing, which is routinely carried out by a large millitary company that used to belong to the government and has now been privatized.  The testing of bombs and aircraft over Arniston is the reason  local fishers believe they are going hungry.  No fish to be caught around there.

The Sea Queen spoke so beautifully for all the fisher people she was representing.  She pointed out that if this nuclear power station was to be built near Buffeljagsbaai , then the people of her village would be crying just as the people of Arniston are now.  Representing the all the artisinal fisher people of the earth, who have relied on the ocean for centuaries, Sarah pointed out that there would be nothing to eat because they have always relied completely on the sea for their survival and know no other way.  (They have very little education or opportunities to do any other work for a living.) If a nuclear power station was to be built there and the fish became contaminated, what would become of them? She asked.


When I returned a couple of years later, shooting footage for the Fisher Stories, she had watched the documentary “Buried in Earthskin” and she told me it was beautiful and that I was doing my lifes work.  I was living my lifes purpose. She said.  Being told that by someone like her was a great affirmation and an honour.  I slept well that night.  (And those who know me will know that is very significant, as I am usually a chronic insomniac!)  Sarah had set herself up catering for tourists, serving them local sea food served in Perlemoen shells, and was doing ok. Strong vibrant spirits like her always find a way.  The nuclear power station has not been built and may it never become a reality.

Interestingly, after the Fisher Stories, (which is about giving the fisher people a voice on the subject of how Climate Change is affecting them)  I found myself being called in again by Justin Bonnello at Cooked in Africa and asked to story direct another fishy tale.  Moving Sushi, the story of a young couple: Mike and Linda Markevina, who went on a road trip from South Africa to Japan and back to find out if anyone was doing anything to save the fish.  Well that’s how I put it.  It’s an expose of the amazing rape of the ocean that is going on under our noses in the form of both legal and illegal unreported overfishing.  Moving Sushi aims to be a story of solutions.  But working on it left me stunned and on a strict diet of only very sustainably harvested fish, if at all.  

This short video about seed saving in a community permaculture project on the Cape Flats was a collaboration with Malaysian film maker Justin Wong.  The background music for all my documentaries was composed and played by my husband: Jamie Jupiter.  Seeding the Future was done as a favour to help the N.G.O.  S.E.E.D. to find funding for this amazing project, which facilitates permaculture training at a primary school in a gang infested area in the Cape flats.

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