Life, Above All is set in the geographical heart of the AIDS epidemic – South Africa, a country that struggles with two million orphaned children and the highest number of HIV cases in the world.
Seen through the eyes of the 12 year-old title character (precociously portrayed by first-timer Khomotso Manyaka), Life, Above All shows the devastation behind the statistics.
Not only does Chandra have to deal with her mother’s (Lerato Mvelase) illness and new-born sister’s death, but also her best friend Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane), whose parents succumbed to HIV. Living alone in a shack, Esther has few options and turns to prostitution to survive.
Chandra’s biggest battle, however, is against the gossip, prejudice and superstition among the inhabitants of her small village near Johannesburg.
That Manyaka is as believable as she is in a role that requires her to show strength and wisdom that would severely challenge most adults is one of the film’s greatest achievements.
Bernhard Jasper’s straightforward, unsentimental photography perfectly matches the story.
Life, Above All is based on Allan Stratton’s best-selling 2004 novel, “Chandra’s Secrets.”
Oliver Schmitz also directed Mapantsula (1988) and the “Place des Fetes” segment from Paris, Je T’Aime (2006).
Playdates and locations HERE.
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