Life, Above All
Autumn 2011 Features series
October 16, 2011 at 4:00pm
October 16, 2011 at 7:00pm
Directed by Oliver Schmitz
Screenplay by Dennis Foon
Based on the book by Allan Stratton
Starring Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane and Lerato Mvelase and
Rated NR ·
South Africa and Germany
Sotho with English subtitles
Life, Above All
In the dusty small town of Elandsdoorn, a South African township not far from Johannesburg, life is simple and serene. A prevailing sense of pride tightly bonds together the entire community – but beware those who step out of line.
Twelve-year-old Chanda is a hardworking promising young student with a bright future, but her life changes dramatically when her baby sister unexpectedly dies. Heartbroken, Chanda’s mother, Lillian, in turn becomes severely ill. Her stepfather drowns himself in alcohol, leaving the young girl to take care of her two smaller siblings. Meanwhile, the formerly friendly neighbours become increasingly distant and gossip spreads.
“Auntie” Tafa does what she can to help by getting Lillian to leave town, but not even she is immune to the cloud of fear filtering across Elandsdoorn. Suspecting that the community’s irrational ostracism has to do with her mother’s illness and the death of her baby sister, Chanda demands answers but is met with stubborn silence. Unwilling to bear the weight of secrecy any longer, Chanda sets out to face a deeply engrained, unspoken taboo.
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 Canada’s Allan Stratton.
“I was most of all impressed by Chanda’s character,” producer Oliver Stoltz explains. “She’s a classical heroine who rebels against the norms and values of her surroundings. In the end, Life, Above All is very much a hopeful tale about the power of friendship, solidarity and loyalty. What really inspired me in reading the book were the values it represents, and the young girl’s commitment to helping outsiders and to fighting for her family and for justice. The mother-daughter story also moved me and how Allan conveyed the importance of family, especially when everything begins to crumble. To me, this is a universal issue.”