Dir. Oliver Schmitz. South Africa. 2011.

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Schmitz's inspirational movie was nominated for Best Foriegn Language film at the 2011 Academy Awards and tells the story of Chanda, who after her mother leaves the village goes off in search of her.  It is based on the novel, 'Chanda's Secrets' by Allan Stratton.

Chanda (played by first timer, Khomotso Manyaka) learns of a rumour that spreads like wildfire through her dust-ridden village outside of Johannesburg.  Her family is destroyed by this vicious allegation, forcing her mother to flee the village.  Young Chanda believes the rumour was spread through superstitition and so goes in search of her mother and the truth she may hold.

Chanda is played by Khomotso Manyaka (a first time performance) who embarks upon a personal journey of discovery, as she listens to her heart for the answers and trusts the loyalty of her family to overcome the paranoia of the community.

Manyaka is amazing in the role of Chanda, being both innocent yet strong and commanding when necessary, following on in the footsteps of Tsotsi (Gavin Hood, 2007) it again shows South African cinema able to portray young children on the cusp of adolescence and ensuing adulthood with a sincerity and seriousness.

Schmitz (who filmed a part for the portmeneau film 'Paris, je t'aime') films with a confidence and shoots the landscapes beautifully conveying a real sense of vastness and place that Chanda is in.

Whilst the other storylines of child prostitution may make this film a tougher watch, nonetheless it remains a gratifying and rewarding one.

Life, Above All is released on DVD by Peccadillo Pictures on Monday 23rd January. 2012.

Jamie Garwood

Also see Howard Schumann's review.

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