Dying for Gold

Directed by Catherine Meyburgh & Richard Pakleppa

98 minutes / Color
English / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 2019
Copyright: 2018

In the biggest class action law suit the country had ever seen, South Africa’s largest gold mining companies were accused of knowingly exposing miners to deadly dust and disease.

Now, harrowing underground footage, intimate interviews with miners and their families, and rare archival material come together in DYING FOR GOLD, the untold story of the making of South Africa.

Coerced by colonial laws, hundreds of thousands of men left their families in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe to feed a seemingly endless need for cheap gold-digging labor. They became fodder for companies including Anglo American, AngloGold Ashanti, Goldfields who reaped vast profits at the cost of human lives, creating a system of modern slavery.

After more than a century of this practice, communities have been decimated. Poverty is overwhelming. Decades of men’s absence has left communities broken and unsustainable without their meager salaries. With the miners' inevitable illnesses, including silicosis and tuberculosis, their families are further burdened. The personal stories from miners across the sub-continent is visceral, intensely personal and devastating.

In their gripping documentary, South African director and longtime William Kentridge collaborator Catherine Meyburgh and South African-Namibian director Richard Pakleppa expose a century of deplorable environmental, labor and human rights practices, bringing to light the real cost of gold at last.

A remarkable portrait [of] chilling poignancy; deft cinematic storytelling. The terrible beauty of the film is its effectiveness in capturing how mining imprisons each protagonist in a unique way.” —Daniel Hoffman, Ph.D., African Studies Chair and Professor of Anthropology, University of Washington

powerful and haunting chronicle of South African mining seen from the particular prism of its health impact on the men who have toiled underground. —Rebecca Davis, Daily Maverick

An important, eye-opening documentary which pulls back the curtain and reveals all of the ugly truths about the South African gold mining industry.” —Sam Kolesnik, Screen Fervor

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a film by Catherine Meyburgh & Richard Pakleppa

Select Accolades

  • Nominated for five South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs)
  • Winner, Best Documentary Sound Design, South African Film and Television Awards 2019
  • Best Documentary, Rapid Lion Film Festival 2019
  • North American Premiere, Hot Docs 2019
  • Encounters South African International Documentary Film Festival 2019
  • AFI New African Film Festival 2020


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