COMING 2019. The mines of Johannesburg, or Jozi, have produced a third of all the gold mined in human history. Now the mines are falling apart and the city confronts an environmental nightmare: Tons of radioactive waste polluting the air and turning water into poisonous Acid Mine Drainage. Former Jehovah’s Witness Mariette is on a mission to uncover the truth about Jozi’s mine waste and force the gold industry to take responsibility.
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Jozi Gold is a South African story with global implications. The team is made up of an impressive array of professionals who have an extensive history of collaboration. Fredrik Gertten and I have known each other and worked together for more than 30 years. My passion for this story is further fuelled by my admiration for Mariette, a white, middle-class Afrikaner woman who has no formal training in any of the issues she tackles so dexterously. Telling Mariette’s story will inspire people everywhere into understanding that one ordinary person can make an extraordinary difference.
I worked as a journalist in South Africa in the 1980s until the day Mandela was inaugurated as President 1994. The mine dumps, the anti-Apartheid struggle and the friends I made there are a part of my history, so when South African filmmaker Adam Welz came to me with this troubling and inspirational story I wanted to help out first as a producer, now as a co-director. Our main character, Mariette Liefferink, has no formal education and she was a Jehova’s Witness for 25 years; if she can take on huge and powerful corporations we all can, there’s no excuse! She is maybe the coolest and most colourful documentary character I have ever met. This will be a fun and disturbing film.
In 1886 the world’s largest gold deposits were discovered in a rural part of South Africa. A boomtown was born: Johannesburg, Africa’s richest city.
Gold production peaked in 1970 and declined rapidly in the late 1980s when the best ore was mined out. The Apartheid regime collapsed in the early 1990s along with gold output. The mines have left six billion tons of solid waste in surface dumps… 600,000 tons are radioactive. Uranium is naturally found in the same rock as gold. Tens of millions of litres of Acid Mine Drainage, a toxic soup that forms when water comes into contact with mined rock, flow out of disused mine tunnels every day.
Almost no research has been done and for decades anyone who dared to look into it was defunded or intimidated. A recent study estimated that up to 1,6-million people may be living dangerously close to mine waste dumps. Mines and the government fear that clean-up and healthcare costs of mine pollution might equal 60 years’ of gold industry profits. Because there is a great and general reluctance to address the problem, the work of Mariette Liefferink has taken centre stage.
Title: Jozi Gold
Release year: 2019
Length: 74 min
Directors: Sylvia Vollenhoven, Fredrik Gertten
Based on an Original Idea by: Adam Welz
Producer: Margarete Jangård (WG Film)
Co-Producers: Anita R Larsen (Sant & Usant), Sylvia Vollenhoven (Vision In Africa)
Executive Producer: Fredrik Gertten
Editor: Stefan Sundlöf
Cinematography: Maanda Nwendamutswu
Composer: Gustav Wall
Sound Design: Martin Hennel
Colorist: Tom Chr. Lilletvedt
The legacy of mining in Johannesburg has left a city surrounded by toxic waste in the air, the soil and the water. We want Johannesburg to be cleared of toxic waste from gold mining. In order for this to happen we need mining companies to take responsibility for the damage they have caused. And we need government to make people safe, and to work towards a JUST TRANSITION away from mining.
Are you worried about the air that you breathe, the water that you drink and the food that you eat? If yes, join us to make your voices heard!
Here’s how you can add your voice to the campaign to make mining companies and the South African government more accountable to the people.
Firstly, help us to get the message out that we are facing a big problem by hosting a screening in your community, workplace, or any common space. Send your screening request to the Jozi Gold South Africa Impact Producer – Anita Khanna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Secondly – sign up to the campaign below to get regular updates, petitions and events in your area.
Thank you for taking action with us!