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Life, Above All

Life, Above All

Based on the novel Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton

Oliver Schmitz

  • Country: South Africa, Germany
  • Year: 2010
  • Language: Pedi
  • Producer: Oliver Stoltz
  • Executive Producer: Helge Sasse
  • Screenplay: Dennis Foon
  • Runtime: 106
  • Programmes:

After the death of her newborn sister, 12 year-old Chanda learns of a rumour that spreads like wildfire through her small, dust-ridden village near Johannesburg. When it destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Chandra leaves home and school in search of her mother and the truth.

screening times

    • Sunday September 12
    • 3:00:00 PM
    • VARSITY 8
    • Tuesday September 14
    • 6:15:00 PM
    • AMC 5

Note: indicates Premium Screening.

official description

With this stunning adaptation of Allan Stratton’s bestselling 2004 novel, Chanda’s Secrets, Oliver Schmitz makes his long-awaited return to feature filmmaking, ten years after giving us the riveting Hijack Stories. Life, Above All breathes new life into both the novel on which it is based as well as the coming-of-age story.

In a breakout performance, twelve-year-old newcomer Khomotso Manyaka plays Chanda, a young girl who must maintain the facade of a normal life amidst utter instability. Her stepfather is an alcoholic, her mother is sick, her newborn sister has recently died and the spread of AIDS is ravaging her quaint South African township. When her mother’s illness becomes openly apparent, the community turns against Chanda’s family, assuming the misfortune to be a form of retribution for their sins.

Life, Above All features a strong supporting cast that includes Keaobaka Makanyane, who plays Chandra’s less principled friend Esther; Harrier Manamela as the town elder; and Lerato Mvelase as Chanda’s sick and guilt-ridden mother. Equal praise goes to the vivid camerawork of Bernhard Jasper and to Dennis Foon’s winning screenplay, which fulfills the task of turning a beloved pager-tuner into a motion picture that feels wholly original.

Life, Above All was a success at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, where it screened in the Un Certain Regard section and took home the Francois Chalias Prize. Despite the tragic subject matter that explores cultural customs, adolescence and religion through the lens of a pandemic, Schmitz instills his film with a keen sense of understanding and emotional gravitas that is at once artful, immersive and accessible.

Michèle Maheux

director bio

Oliver Schmitz was born in Cape Town, South Africa and works in television and film. He graduated with a B.A. in fine arts from the Michaelis School of Fine Arts in Cape Town. His first film, Mapantsula (87), debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and was named the best South African film of the decade at the South African Film and Television Awards. His other films include Hijack Stories (00), the segment Place des Fêtes in the omnibus film Paris je t’aime (segment, 03), and Life, Above All (10).

full credits

Principal Cast: Khomotso Manyaka, Lerato Mvelase, Harriet Manamela, Keaobaka Makanyane, Aubrey Poolo
Oliver Stoltz
Executive Producer:
Helge Sasse
Bernhard Jasper
Dirk Grau
Ivan Millborrow
Ali N. Askin
Production Designer:
Christiane Rothe
Based on the novel Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton

Canadian Distributor:
 Mongrel Media  
International Sales Agent:
 Bavaria Film
Production Company:
Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduktion GmbH
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