17 March 2013

Life Above All

Life Above All (2010)

This is a difficult movie to watch.  In the first place, my total ignorance of the language they’re speaking makes me depend completely on the subtitles which sometimes flash by too quickly.  When watching French or German movies I can always catch a few words that help me along but here – nothing.
What’s more difficult of course is the subject matter – AIDS in South Africa.  The parents of schoolgirl Chandra (played by Khomotso Manyaka) have AIDS and are dying.  In a slow- moving, contemplative story that started gripping me about half-way through, we see how Chandra is forced to give up her studies to take care of her little brother and sister.  Her step-father disappears, her mother leaves to protect the family from the shame but Chandra goes to get her.  The image of this scrawny little girl trudging across the dry South African landscape to find her mother lying under a tree in the middle of nowhere will be hard to forget.
Even stronger is her friendship with Esther – played by a fantastic young actress Keaobaka Makanyane, who has already lost her parents to AIDS and is forced into prostitution to support herself.  The consequences are inevitable.  She is beaten and has probably contracted AIDS herself.
The title of the movie says it all.  Somehow these girls survive.  They shoulder the responsibilities of the adults who are no longer there.
The film is dedicated to the Chandras of the world.
How could it be anything but 5*? -  though it is insultingly banal to rate a movie like this.  See it.

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