South African Director unearthed as South Africa’s own ‘Erin Brokovich’

Her name is Jolynn Minnaar…and she has a story to tell. Her story is about fracking, and it’s not a story that she set out to tell. But she has told it so well that her documentary “Unearthed” won the Green Award at the Sheffield International Documentary Festival in the UK last week.


Jolynn and the documentary team were applauded at the Festival for creating a film that has critical and international relevance, as well as the ability to “inspire action across the world”.

Parallels are already being drawn between Jolynn and Erin Brokovich, the American activist who helped build a case against the Pacific Gas and Electric Company of California in 1993.

‘Unearthed’  investigates fracking and the hidden truths of the gas industry in the US in order to understand what this could mean for the semi-arid Karoo, and other countries who are considering its implementation.

“For a long time the Karoo was just a forgotten rural area in the middle of South Africa, a place I used to call home…” says Jolynn at the start of the video trailer (watch below).

Jolynn Minnaar
Jolynn Minnaar Source: twitter

The region’s low-key presence changed when the Karoo became the centre of controversial plans for companies like Shell to begin fracking in the area. Fracking, which began in the United States, is a method of gas extraction.

The film follows director Jolynn’s journey as she underwent 18 months of research, over 400 interviews and travelled across South Africa, the US, Canada and the UK.

The young South African, who was born in the Karoo, battled gag orders, no trespassing zones, lost cameras to extreme heat and subzero temperatures and suffered first-hand chemical exposure from drilling sites to get to the bottom of this topic!

Jolynn set off on this journey after a mysterious phone call from the US shattered the optimism she had held about fracking in the Karoo. According to the Unearthed trailer notes on the website:

“When Jolynn Minnaar first heard about the fracking in the Karoo, her home district, she was optimistic. Companies seeking to drill in this semi-arid area of South Africa promised that the new process of gas extraction was a safe, time-tested one; a practice that would bring widespread prosperity for the poor, rural Karoo communities.

“But after stumbling across a rumoured case of water contamination in Pennsylvania, Jolynn is drawn into an investigation which takes her across the United States – the home of the fracking technology – in search of answers. Her discoveries leave her horrified.

“As the South African government lifts the moratorium on fracking, the race against time begins [and Jolynn begins] to share her findings with the residents of the Karoo – before it’s too late.”

‘Unearthed’ challenges the claim that hydraulic fracturing is safe and questions whether shale gas is the solution for our “energy-hungry” world.

Jolynn believes that with the planet’s rapidly expanding population and intense demands on natural resources, there is trouble ahead and “the world as we know it, urgently needs to hit the refresh button”. She hopes that ‘Unearthed’ could “become a catalyst in that endeavour”.

Jolynn graduated from the University of Cape Town with a triple major BA Degree in Film, Media and Media Production. She then specialised in cinematography and editing at AFDA, the South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance.

The producers behind ‘Unearthed’ are  Dylan Voogt, Stacey Keppler and Saskia Schiel.

Like Erin Brokovich, Jolynn has become immersed in the fracking industry – delivering presentations and findings to various institutions and working with several communities from the Karoo to Nigeria; as well as with grassroots organisations further afield in countries like Australia, Canada and the USA.

Julia Roberts starred as Erin in the film about her fight for what was right…perhaps Jennifer Lawrence will be playing Jolynn Minnaar one day…

Watch Video: Unearthed trailer

The documentary will feature at the Durban International Film Festival next month.

See Karoo Space’s latest article on Shale Gas Fracking in South Africa – Who Pays? Who Benefits? – click here.

For more info on Fracking, see What the Frack is Going on?


  1. Great job. This reminds me of way back when there was a slogan: “DDT is good for me!”
    Won’t we ever learn?

Comments are closed.