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Life, Above All (Blu-ray Review)

3 Dec, 2011 By: Ashley Ratcliff

Street 12/6/11
Sony Pictures
Box Office $0.1 million
$45.99 Blu-ray/DVD combo
Rated ‘PG-13’ for mature thematic material and some sexual content.

The plight of the African AIDS epidemic is well known. We read statistics and news reports, but do we ever stop to think that these are real lives? Real people with real loved ones and real feelings?

Life, Above All is a meaningful film in that it tells the story of how the disease has shaken a village in modern South Africa, and all the shame and abandonment that comes with those plagued by it.

The film begins with the passing of an infant girl, Sarah. While it’s not initially overtly explained, she has died from AIDS. Because of this, her mother, Lillian (Lerato Mvelase), is shunned. The villagers murmur about her, while her husband, Jonah (Aubrey Poolo), has resorted to infidelity and alcoholism.

As all this turmoil ensues around the family, daughter Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka) exhibits admirable perseverance. She is unwavering in her love for her mother, even if the rumors are true. Chanda later takes on a maternal role for her younger siblings.

The adolescent also stands by her best friend, Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane), a parentless, misguided girl who the villagers deem a misfit and a whore (she has resorted to selling her body to truckers). The relationship between Chanda and Esther is a mirror of the friendship that Lillian and Mrs. Tafa (Harriet Lenabe) share: They’re friends until the end.

Chanda is what anyone would want in a big sister or best friend: strong, protective, caring and determined. This role is beautifully acted by Manyaka, who carries the emotional, intense film like a natural.

In watching Life, Above All, you get the sense that you’re watching not a movie, but a documentary about a troubled family. The film is a poignant profile of the bond between a mother and daughter, and is one that will make you think.

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