SYNOPSIS  |  Finding the Gold Within  |  A Feature-length Documentary by Karina Epperlein

Finding the Gold Within follows six Black men from Akron, Ohio, through their first years of college. Despite their high levels of confidence and critical thinking, the stark reality of being away from their families and communities brings a series of crises. A sister dies in a car accident; a home gets broken into, a brush with the law, racial jokes and provocations never seem to end.

Each young man is tested. Can he keep his eyes on the prize? Can he stay true to himself? Be it poetry, football, music, basketball, theatre, psychology, law, or international relations their dreams and goals change. Each of them is determined to disprove society’s stereotypes and low expectations. Many will have to overcome the fate of their missing fathers, some that of their scheming uncles or drug-dealing cousins.

In the intimate circle of Alchemy—which has been their “family” since sixth grade—they speak of their disappointments, despairs, trials and triumphs with a disarming honesty. Alchemy, Inc. and its leaders have been working in the school system in the Cleveland area, mentoring young black urban youth from middle through high school. Exploring ancient stories from diverse cultures, as well as drumming and writing, this innovative program gives the youth a chance to grow into self-knowledge, discipline and confidence. They are taught to “follow the sage within their hearts”.

The young men are allowing us to have an intimate look, but they are also looking back at us. They are stepping out of invisibility. Cinematically, the film is exploring America’s historically embedded fear of “blackness.” Each young man is on his unique path: how can he break free of the stereotypes of African American men? Can he find the gold within? The willingness of our six protagonists to be fully awake, to struggle and create new cultural identities, individually and collectively, will inspire us all.

Finding the Gold Within probes what it means to be young, Black, male and ‘other.’ The project comes with a rare kind of intimate access—an unusual opportunity. It initiated in me the filmmaker a clear, strong vision: young black men who have been prepared and are ready to navigate the world in self-affirming and stereotype-defying ways. It seems the right time to look deeper, to give voice to those marginalized; we all know the abysmal statistics. So let’s start listening to their stories.” ~ Karina Epperlein


“Besides, they’ll see how beautiful I am and be ashamed—I, too, am America.”
—Langston Hughes