South Africa/Germany, 2010, 106 min
Chanda is a South African preteen dealing with a number of difficult situations. Her mother, Lillian, is very ill, her stepfather is a drunk, her newborn sister has just died and her two living siblings need to be fed, clothed and taken to school. The grace and intelligence this youngster brings to bear on all these crises transforms the hard reality in Oliver Schmitz’s Life, Above All into an inspiring coming-of-age story. At the same time, the film examines the prejudice and problems accompanying poverty and widespread HIV infection in the small township where Chanda lives. When locals start whispering that Lillian has the dreaded “bug,” a nosy neighbor (memorably played by Harriet Manamela) intervenes in a misguided attempt to shield Chanda and her family. As the problems mount, so does the girl’s resolve, as she stands up to other residents and causes them to reevaluate their preconceptions. Newcomer Khomotso Manyaka brings maturity and intention to her portrait of Chanda, while screenwriter Dennis Foon’s intimate narrative demonstrates the wider devastation suffered by a country due to poverty, fear and disease. Against a tragically preventable backdrop of teenage prostitution, alcoholism, infant mortality and the AIDS epidemic, the film seeks a hopeful future for a damaged community in one heartbreakingly resilient child.
In Pedi with subtitles. Special support for this program generously provided by Cecilia and Jim Herbert.