Jolynn Minnaar is standing in the middle of a quarry, the wind howling around her. At her feet multiple beds of fire are being lit. The wind quickly calms them, before they are hastily re-ignited. It’s just before sunset and the light is changing fast. The flames on the ground are lit for one last shot. The tall, beautiful blonde regains her footing and takes her place, once again, in front of the camera.
Standing defiantly amongst the flames, Jolynn is imagined as the tireless protector of the land she inhabits, a filmmaker who will stop at nothing in her quest to uncover the truth. Since the release of her 2014 documentary Unearthed, an unflinching investigation into the disturbing effects of fracking in parts of the United States – and what it could mean for South Africa, she has been lauded as a voice for the voiceless.
The young documentary maker humbly dismisses this kind of praise. “I’m just a young South African eager to see a better tomorrow for my country,” she says. “If I can do so using film, I’ll be very happy.” Immersing herself in extensive research, Jolynn probes every possible corner and aspect of an issue, with the end goal of resting assured that her audience can trust her message.
She first heard news that the process of fracking had been proposed in her hometown of the Karoo in 2011. A controversial method of gas extraction that takes place deep beneath the earth’s surface, at first it piqued her interest because of its connection to the Karoo. The young filmmaker eventually found herself submerged in research that she struggled to comprehend and realised just how difficult it would prove for most residents of the town
“The Karoo is a very rural area, with very low literacy levels,” she explains. “And fracking is an enormously complex issue to understand. I wanted to empower people with information so they could better understand what was being proposed for the area that they live in.”
Jolynn spent years working on Unearthed. She travelled to the United States where she spent months uncovering multiple cases of water and air contamination. Upon completion, she took the film to the very community that compelled her to begin the project: the residents of the Karoo. “That was always the commitment,” she says. “After the film we spoke and made sure people understood what was being proposed, regardless of which side of the debate they were on.”
It’s this for which Jolynn strives – to tell stories of weight, stories that matter. Film just happens to be the most appropriate tool for her to do so. Unearthed was just the beginning in her persistent pursuit of the truth. “I’m trying to understand how we can tell stories, and allow other people to tell stories, and in doing so, better understand the South African identity,” Jolynn says. “It’s truth that will open these doors.”