Let me introduce: Shawntrail, Tyler, Darius, Imani, Brandyn, and Stacee.
Finding the Gold Within follows six black men from Akron, Ohio, through their first two 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, and 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, mythology, basketball, theatre, psychology, their dreams and goals change. Each of them is hell-bent on disproving society's stereotypes and low expectations, determined to overcome the fate of their missing fathers, scheming uncles, and 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 mythological 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. 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 worldwide 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 non-ordinary ways. It seems the right time to look deeper, to give voice to those marginalized; we all know the abysmal statistics. What better way than through personal stories?" - Karina Epperlein