Life, Above AllStarring: Khomotso Manyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Lerato Mvelase

CERT: 12A mins RT: 105 mins


Opening with the Aids-related death of a baby and featuring devastating scenes of child prostitution and alcoholism, Life, Above All is a tough movie to watch.

Persevere, though, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most moving films this year.

At the heart of this extraordinary South African offering is Chanda (Manyaka), a teenage girl living in a small rural town who is coming to terms with the disintegration of her family life.

Her mother Lillian (Mvelase) is seriously ill and has recently lost her baby while her step-father is a cheating alcoholic.

As a cloud hangs over Chanda’s home, the local community starts talking about a curse, something made worse by the youngster’s friendship with prostitute Esther (Makanyane).

A subtle exploration into the tragic misinformation that surrounds the Aids pandemic in South Africa, Life, Above All is frequently shocking and heart-breaking.

Oliver Schmitz draws wonderful performances from his cast while the director’s decision to use moody, natural light in most of the scenes is a masterstroke.

True, the ending doesn’t really ring true, but by then Life, Above All has well and truly made its point.

Good for: Learning the truth about the Aids pandemic in South Africa.

Pierre de Villiers