German-born Karina Epperlein has worked in Europe and the U.S. for the past 41 years as filmmaker, theater artist, and teacher. Shining light into dark corners of society, Karina focuses on the themes of justice, transformation, and healing. Her latest feature-length documentary FINDING THE GOLD WITHIN, follows six young black men from Akron, Ohio, through 4 years of college. It is her tenth film as director/producer. Using her garage doors, she recently created a permanent BLM Memorial Mural.
Karina’s film PHOENIX DANCE (2006, 16 min & 23 min) was “short-listed” for Oscar Nomination for Short Documentary. Recounting Homer Avila’s remarkable return to the stage as a one-legged dancer in a pas de deux by Alonzo King – has been screening in more than 120 festivals and theaters all over the world. It won twelve awards, including a Golden Gate Award from the San Francisco Int’l Film Festival. This work was also photographed and edited by Karina.
From four years of close friendship with a 94-year-old Armenian woman who survived the genocide of her people in 1915, Karina created I WILL NOT BE SAD IN THIS WORLD (2001, 56 min). She spent much time in Zaroohe’s home in Fresno with her digital video camera. This lyrical portrait – as most of Karina’s other works – uses fairytale, poetry, and art to take the viewer on a soul journey. The film was shown at numerous festivals, and is used in high schools and universities.
Her earlier video pieces Labyrinthian (1984, 20 min) and i.e. DEUTSCHLAND (1988, 8 min) were followed by VOICES FROM INSIDE (1996, 60 min), a documentary about women in prison and their children on the outside. It was the culmination of her four years of teaching theater as a volunteer at a federal women’s prison. Karina traveled extensively with the film, leading discussions and running workshops at festivals, universities, conferences, and community groups. Voices won the National Council on Crime and Delinquency’s PASS Media Award (Prevention for a Safer Society), and is distributed by New Day Films.
Karina directed, co-produced and co-photographed with John Knoop, WE ARE HERE TOGETHER (2003, 65 min), a film about the tempestuous first year of an alternative charter high school in Alameda, California. She directed and photographed WOMEN’S RITES (2000, 37 min), about five women from Europe and the U.S. studying the Anna Halprin Life/Art Process, as well as IN THE SHADOW OF HUMA’S WING (2008, 56 min), a highly intimate, experiential film about somatic psychotherapy.
She also co-produced, co-directed and co-edited with John Knoop the documentary AWAKENING FROM SORROW: BUENOS AIRES 1997 (2009, 40 min). The film, contemplating history and giving voice to the children of the disappeared in the Dirty War in Argentina, and their emerging HIJOS movement, screened at festivals here and abroad, and is distributed by Icarus Films.
In 2011, Karina embarked on her feature length film FINDING THE GOLD WITHIN (2014, 92 min) which follows the lives of six African American college students from Akron, Ohio, for three and a half years. They have been mentored for seven years by the unique youth program Alchemy, Inc. and are well equipped with self-confidence and critical-thinking skills, ready to become the heroes within their own stories. The protagonists grow before our eyes, whether navigating racial provocations, or seeking support with friends, estranged fathers, and wise grandmothers. In intimate reunion sessions, we witness the award-winning work of the Black elders of Alchemy and their unique method of using the exploration of mythological stories told to the beat of the drum. GoldTheFilm.com
Karina’s years of creating, directing and performing original theater pieces in the 80’s were accompanied by teaching dance, improv, movement, voice & sound, creative expression, and Chi Gong. Since 1986, she has been offering private sessions and classes in The Principles of T’ai Chi Ch’uan & The Art of Slowing Down. A teacher and guide for the past 45 years, Karina enjoys bringing all facets of her spirit and life into the teaching.
Since 1992, she has been the steward of a very small grove of old Live Oak trees, where she has been developing her vision of Karinaland. Located on Ohlone territory in Berkeley, California, in this is a place where we learn, engage, listen, and create harmony with all beings of nature, including plants, animals, minerals, humans, and the elements.
In June 2020, Karina researched, designed and created the 641 Garage BLM Memorial Mural which personalizes the lives of victims of state violence in America. For this project, she invited artist friends to join in painstakingly painting with fine brushes and meditative prayer the names, dates, occupations, hobbies, livelihoods and manner of death onto her double garage doors. It is still in progress. After press wrote about it, people started pilgrimaging to the Memorial Mural. Many passers-by, visitors and neighbors continue to send pictures of it to their friends world-wide.