LIFE, ABOVE ALL, GRADE: B+

LIFE, ABOVE ALL, GRADE: B+

Some words are more taboo than the usual four-letter designations, particularly since the movies have made the latter commonplace. Think of these terms: death, died, cancer, AIDS. More often than not, a person has not died but "passed away" or "passed" or "is with Jesus" or "is an angel." Even worse, kids are sometimes told that their deceased father is "asleep." As for cancer, this term was verboten to a greater extent in the past than now. The term AIDS is not uttered in some afflicted households even today. Why? There is still the belief in the evil eye, even in developed countries like ours, that the mere mention of a term will conjure up Satan. Such is the case with Oliver Schmitz's film "Life, Above All," a generic title that would have improved had Allan Stratton's novel, "Chandra's Secrets," stuck in the cinematic version.

Bookmark and Share

LIFE, ABOVE ALL
Sony Pictures Classics

Reviewed for Arizona Reporter
By Harvey Karten

Grade: B+
Directed By: Oliver Schmitz
Written By: Dennis Foon, from Allan Stratton's novel, "Chandra's Secrets"
Cast: Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Lenabe, Lerato Mvelase, Tinah Mnumzana
Screened at: Sony, NYC, 6/23/11
Opens: July 15, 2011

No matter. The photography is splendid, the singing gorgeous, and for those in the audience who are not fluent in Pedi, the English subtitles are clear and bold. More important, the film is anchored by a stunning debut performance by fifteen-year-old Khomotso Manyaka in the role of Chanda, a sensitive, articulate 12-year-old whose problems are caused by the people around her rather than by her own views-which are more mature than those held by just about everyone in her life. She appears in virtually every scene, an expressive young woman who may be flawed in that she cuts school too often to get ahead in her mostly poor village of Elandsdoorn, near Johannesburg, where superstition is rife, and people sick and dying with AIDS are not welcome as they bring shame on the town and fear into the populace.

Like a lot of kids here in the States who cut classes or drop out, Chanda is surrounded by problems. Her infant sister has died. Her mother, Lillian (Lerato Mvelase) is sick with AIDS, stepfather, Jonah (Aubrey Poolo) is perpetually drunk and is afflicted with AIDS, her best friend Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane) is selling her body to truckers to make ends meet (so to speak), her younger siblings Iris (Mapaseka Mathebe) and Soly (Thato Kgaladi) are clueless, her richer neighbor, Mrs. Tafa (Harriet Manamela), is shrill and judgmental. Chanda's English teacher means well but is unable to do much to get his bright student to attend classes. A charlatan offers potions that he professes can help AIDS victims but Chanda cannot afford the 600 Rand that he wants (a Rand is worth about 14 American cents making the fee $84 US).

Chanda tries her best to keep people alive, her plight becoming worse after she travels north to where her mother is hiding out from the local townspeople, brings her mom back home, and is threatened, even stoned by villagers who angrily believe that the sick woman is bringing shame upon them. At no point does young Chanda despair. Despite the hostility, physical ailments and emotional upheavals that are part of her life much too soon, she believes like Anne Frank that people are really good at heart.

Director Oliver Schmitz, the child of German immigrants, was born in Cape Town, shot the gangster drama "Mapantsula" in Soweto without government permission, and evokes solid performances from the ensemble to the extent that "Liife, Above All" was South Africa's Oscar competition entry for movies that opened in 2010 and was short-listed in January as well. This is a film that inspires hope, taking a stand against superstition, and should be seen by the ignorant people who perpetuate lies and act with callous disregard for the feelings of the impaired.

Unrated. 105 minutes. © 2011 Harvey Karten Member: NY Film Critics Online.



Latest Additions to AZR

SABOTAGE - ARNOLD'S MUCHO-MACHO COMEBACK

Arnold Schwarzenegger plays John "Breacher" Wharton, veteran leader of a dauntless squad of grubby undercover DEA agents, who discovers, after effectively hiding the 10 million dollars they skimmed off after a massive raid of the "money room" at a Mexican drug cartel safe house, that someone has hei ...

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER - INTRIGUING ESPIONAGE THRILLER

Marvel's new cinematic adventure not only continues the superhero saga but also plunges into a Cold War conspiracy which could deliver covert technology into the hands of an enemy agent. Set two years after "The Avengers" alien attack in New York, U.S. Army Officer Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chr ...

REVIEW, CESAR CHAVEZ

Union days appear over in America, where only nine percent of workers are members of organized labor. This certainly does not mean that the working classes and middle classes that were formerly active in such groups are ecstatic about their wages: quite the contrary. Bosses have found ways to work ...

REVIEW, THE ANONYMOUS PEOPLE

In much the way that Stephen Farber's exciting documentary "How to Survive a Plague" deals with the struggle to get politicians involved in finding an effective treatment for AIDS, Greg Williams's "The Anonymous People" runs with efforts to change the way we deal with folks addicted to drugs and al ...

MASTERS OF MOVEMENT - ARIZONA BALLET MARCH 27-30

Pushing the boundaries of classical ballet, Spain's emerging choreographic powerhouse Alejandro Cerrudo presents Off Screen, a dance inspired by film. It's sexy and modern with eccentric moves. Ib Andersen showcases the elegant and intricate Symphonie Classique with costumes by Tony Award-winning de ...


View Local News Sources From 33,000+ Neighborhoods Nationwide!



Eg : Movie Review, Arizona, Fishing, etc.
Search results for

In Our Current Issue


Arizona Reporter on Twitter Follow to Arizona Reporter on Facebook Subscribe to Arizona Reporter on Yahoo News Arizona Reporter RSS Feed Subscribe to Arizona Reporter via Kindle!
View Local News Sources


Arizona Newswire

Latest Reviews
By Harvey Critic

HARVEY KARTEN
Member NYFCO

Arizona

Latest Reviews
By Susan Granger

Member NYFCO

James Mapes
Quantum Leap Thinking

An Owner's Guide to the Mind