Finding the Gold Within follows six black 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, each of them hell-bent on disproving society’s stereotypes and low expectations. What will their paths and trials look like? How will they follow their dreams?
Karina Epperlein has 36 years of experience as a theater artist, teacher and filmmaker. A native of Germany, she came to the United States in 1981 as a dancer, choreographer and actress with the avant-garde theater company SOON 3. Karina developed her own poetic vision of theater directing, writing and performing original works. Haunted by her country’s past, she created the one-woman show i.e. Deutschland (1988 - 93) dealing with the aftermath of the Holocaust. Karina kept rewriting the piece as new historical events unfolded (the fall of the Wall, reunification), and it was widely performed at theaters and universities. Karina's work is always looking into dark corners, finding the light, addressing the themes of justice, transformation, and healing. Finding the Gold Within is her tenth film project as director/producer. The feature-length documentary follows six young Black men through the trials and triumphs of their first three years of college. How do they navigate persistent racial provocations? Alumni of the unique Ohio mentoring program Alchemy, they are hell-bent on disproving society's stereotypes and low expectations. Amazingly, they grow before our eyes. GoldTheFilm.com Karina directed and performed in the video piece Labyrinthian (1984, 20 min) based on a poem by Greek poet Nanos Valaoritis. Both, this and her video version of i.e. Deutschland (1988, 9 min) were shown in festivals here and abroad. Between 1992 and 1996 Karina taught creative expression classes for teens and adults in drug rehab facilities in Oakland and East Palo Alto. She produced and directed 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 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). 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 an inner journey. The film has been shown at numerous festivals, and is used in high schools and universities. Her film Phoenix Dance (2006, 16 min & 23 min) – recounting Homer Avila’s remarkable return to the stage as a one-legged dancer Tina pas de deux by Alonzo King – has been screening in more than 100 festivals and theatres all over the world. It was “short-listed” for the 2006 Oscar Nomination for Short Documentary, and has 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. Karina directed – as well as co-produced and 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 also directed and photographed Women's Rites (2000, 37 min), about five women from Europe and the U.S. studying Expressive Arts Therapy with Anna and Daria Halprin. Karina directed, wrote and photographed In the Shadow of Huma’s Wing (2008, 56 min), a film that allows the viewer a highly intimate look at Louise Barrie’s Huma Somatic Psychotherapy. She co-produced, co-directed and co-edited with John Knoop the documentary Awakening from Sorrow, Buenos Aires 1997 (2009, 40 min). This film gives voice to the HIJOS movement in Argentina (the children of the disappeared in the Dirty War), and premiered at the Mill Valley Film Festival. As filmmaker, Karina enjoys practicing the art of cinematography, editing, and music selection, telling a story from a new angle. For 30 years she has been teaching T’ai chi, breath and sound.