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

WITCHING & BITCHING (LAS BRUJAS DE ZUGARRAMURDI)

Witching and BitchingWhen Arthur Miller wrote "The Crucible," he presented us with a crackerjack story of actual events: the Salem Witch trials in which a relatively small number of people were burned at the stake, some after being outed by children. The play had no humor to speak of, it was deadly ...

22 JUMP STREET, SATISFYINGLY SILLY

Having conquered the box-office in their first mismatched buddies action-comedy, those bumbling undercover cops - brawny Jenko (Channing Tatum) and brainy Schmidt (Jonah Hill) - are back again. Only, this time, they've moved into the Vietnamese church across the street, along with Deputy Chief Hard ...

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 - ENCHANTING

Writer/director Dean DeBlois breathes fresh fire into the second chapter of this animated trilogy, returning to the mythological world of the heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless. ...

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF FUN, PLAY AND FULL ENGAGEMENT

Creativity is intelligence having fun. ~ Albert Einstein, physicist

Do you think fun is frivolous? If so, perhaps you should think again.

Pause at the end of this paragraph - just for a few seconds - to recall a very happy, joyful, engaging moment from your li ...

REVIEW, WHO IS DAYANI CRISTAL?

They like us! They really like us! No, not the Lebanese or Pakistanis, Slovenians or Russians. They're Mexicans, many of whom literally risk their lives to cross to us at the fenced-in border between our two countries. Never mind that the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo lifted parts of Californ ...


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