Life, Above All

  • Film
  • Drama
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Keaobaka Makanyane and Khomotso Manyaka in Life, Above All
In 1988, Oliver Schmitz made ‘Mapantsula’, one of the great Apartheid-era South African films, and with this adaptation of the 2004 novel ‘Chanda’s Secrets’, he unflinchingly explores life in modern Johannesburg for one girl whose family life in an impoverished township is in freefall. Chanda (the terrific Khomotso Manyaka) is just 12 years old and yet shoulders endless responsibilities as her mother, Lillian (Lerato Mvelase), is sick and her stepfather, Jonah (Aubrey Poolo), is a drunk. Illness claims the life of her baby sister, and elsewhere there are tensions between Chanda and her friend Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane), another child discovering the realities of the adult world all too soon.

‘Life, Above All’ is an inside-out portrait of a particular world, whose brutal, dark and unforgiving qualities are reflected in the film’s scrubbed-away colours and shadowy interiors. There’s an anger at the film’s heart towards not only the hardships suffered by Chanda but also the reaction of her community, which proves itself to be curtain-twitching, gossipy and in denial in the face of its own destruction.

Release details

Rated: 12A
Release date: Friday May 27 2011
Duration: 105 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Oliver Schmitz
Cast: Khomotso Manyaka
Lerato Mvelase
Harriet Manamela

Average User Rating

5 / 5

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1 person listening
Paul Murphy

This outstanding, extemely rmoving film is full of power and anger rather than misery as Chanda takes on the forces of superstition so cynically exploited by Thabo Mbeki in a post-apartheid SA still split into the haves and have-nothings. Even better than Mapantsula it is my film of the year so far and will be hard to dislodge from my memory. Not only that, it's one of the finest ever films about AIDS and can be put to good educational use. If anyone from the Curzon chain reads this, please fgive it a full run, rather than criminally relegating it to 2 afternoon weekend showings.