A Growing Thing
A Growing Thing
A Growing Thing
A Growing Thing

A Growing Thing

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    • Directed by: Sarah Gross
    • Released: 2019 (educational)
    • Year of Production: 2018
Running Time:  92 min
Language: English
Subtitle Options: English Closed Captions
Subjects: Women's Studies, African Studies


25 years after the end of apartheid, what do women in a South African township dream of?

Jabulile Ndaba is training to become a leader of a women’s project in a township near Johannesburg, South Africa. The project, Kopanang, helps women earn money through sewing and embroidery — and also enables Jabulile to learn office management skills.

Jabulile, a tall black woman with a contagious sense of humor, grew up under apartheid. Officially revoked 24 years ago, segregation in South Africa is more subtle and dangerous now because it has no name. Still today, teenage pregnancies, drug-addiction and massive unemployment in the township create never-ending crises. Jabulile is the sole provider for her large family. Her husband drinks away his earnings at the local bar. When Jabulile discovers that their teenage son has started smoking the highly addictive street drug “nyaope,” she determines to do whatever it takes to help him quit.

Jabulile refuses to see herself as a victim. With humor and determination, she is fighting to change her place in the world. Driving lessons and internet banking bring Jabulile into contact with a new, privileged white world. A highlight is Jabulile’s first trip by airplane. She is invited to represent Kopanang in Australia. The whole trip – from packing, to presenting her passport at border control, to speaking to a crowd of white people in Sydney – builds her self-confidence, which in turn strengthens her resolve to take control of life back home.

But there are also major setbacks, such as when Jabulile’s drug-addicted son begins to steal from the family. Jabulile and her husband cannot agree how to handle the problem. Tensions at home increase.

Until now, an energetically dedicated Irish nun, Sister Sheila Flynn, has run Kopanang. Just recently, the women learned that Sheila will be moving to Australia and no one is coming to replace her. The clock is ticking. Jabulile and her coworkers must learn to lead or risk losing Kopanang.
This long-term observational documentary follows Jabulile and her co-workers at Kopanang over several years. This intimate film documents her gradual and arduous process of emancipation while offering a glimpse of post-apartheid South Africa from a female perspective.

About the filmmaker 

SARAH GROSS (Director/Producer) is a filmmaker based in Berlin. Her feature length documentary Brown Bread (2014), a personal film about growing up in an interracial adoptive family, was awarded “Best World Documentary” at Harlem International Film Festival and is being distributed by Kino Lorber. Her short films have won awards, and she has received European MEDIA funding for screenplay development. Gross studied filmmaking at Harvard University and has worked as 1st A.D. on international productions in North America and Europe including the acclaimed German production Goodbye Lenin. She has dual nationality in the U.S. and Germany.


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