Life, Above All (2011)
Just after the death of her newly-born sister, Chanda, 12 years old, learns of a rumor that spreads like wildfire through her small, dust-ridden village near Johannesburg. It destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Sensing that the gossip stems from prejudice and superstition, Chanda leaves home and school in search of her mother and the truth. Life, Above All is an emotional and universal drama about a young girl (stunningly performed by first-time-actress Khomotso Manyaka) who fights the fear and shame that have poisoned her community. The film captures the enduring strength of loyalty and a courage powered by the heart. Directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz (Mapantsula), it is based on the international award winning novel Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton. -- (C) Sony Classics … More
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Critic Reviews for Life, Above All
"Life, Above All" earns the tears it inspires. The film is about deep human emotions, evoked with sympathy and love.
Perseverance is the theme of "Life, Above All," a drama that is deeply affecting, if also overwhelmingly bleak.
There is less in-your-face grit in Cape Town-born director Oliver Schmitz's vision for this film than there is a careful pacing of somber revelations.
In such a bleak story, the redemptive ending seems rushed and unconvincing, but director Oliver Schmitz has sent us a timely dispatch from a forgotten corner of the world that is honest above all.
This is a heartening story of resilience told without false uplift. It is hopeful without being mawkish, realistic but not oppressive.
A gripping African drama about a child who has to grow up too fast, who has to keep her family together and alive, and has come to terms with the AIDS stigma that her neighbors place on them.
...there's an undeniable fierceness and intelligence in Manyaka's lead performance. She's far from a polished actor, but there's real steel there.
The location settings are more compelling than the filmmaking, but the subject matter and the effective presence of young Khomotso Manyaka perhaps make this worth seeking out for those who are sympathetic to its subject matter.
"Life, Above All" is an incredibly sad movie that never relies on sentimentality, and is as clear-eyed about the story as its forthright young heroine.
What makes it bearable but also beautiful and stirring is the central performance by the preteen, first-time actor Khomotso Manyaka.
An imperfect attempt at addressing the continued reluctance of sub-Saharan societies to address the HIV plague in their midst.
Life, Above All is 100 minutes of grief and courage. The film shows how South Africans failed to accept and deal with the reality of AIDS. It's a provocative and depressing plot.
Manyaka brings grace and empathy to everything Chanda does, eliciting sympathy and understanding in spite of the movie's own awkwardness.
There are a lot of tears in Life, Above All, and they're all earned.
Manyaka's performance is jaw dropping, entirely earning the neat little bow that the movie seems determined to put on top of her mission.
Story about a South African girl struggling against AIDS stigma feels too rational and distant.
Audience Reviews for Life, Above All
"Life, Above All" hit me harder emotionally than any movie I have ever seen. Shame withers the soul, born from an unawareness of why we are who we are. Here, we watch a young girl experience the devastating effects that shame has on all the people she cares about. Nothing good comes from shame. Empathy is the answer. Encouragement is the answer. Education is the answer. What our young heroin does here is the answer.More
As young as she is, Chanda(Khomotso Manyaka) is forced to be the adult of the house when her infant sister dies. Her mother(Lerato Mvelase) is obviously emotionally distraught while her stepfather Jonah(Aubrey Poolo) finds comfort in other women and controlled substances. In fact, Chanda has to steal back the money for the funeral from him. At least, she has help from her friend Esther(Keaobaka Makanyane) while Mrs. Tafa(Harriet Lenabe), a neighbor, takes Chanda's two younger siblings(Thato Kgaladi & Mapaseka Mathebe) in to babysit during the funeral. On the other hand, her mother's family is little help at all, just sending one reluctant representative, her Aunt Lizbet(Tinah Mnumzana). In this maelstrom, Chanda even tries to attend school but is informed by her teacher that she can have a couple of days off.
With an extended introduction that has a tenuous link to the rest of the story, "Life, Above All" is an earnest and compelling coming of age movie. At the same time, it also has much to say about the sad state of current healthcare in South Africa, dominated as it is by quacks, past traditions and overwhelmed hospitals, with a special emphasis on AIDS which is treated as a shameful affliction while the true shame is how the disease's victims are treated so badly. At least, Chanda is a beacon of hope for her country's future, considering her intelligence, bravery and compassion.
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