Saturday 12 Jul

Escape from Tomorrow

With Escape from Tomorrow, one fears the story behind the movie would loom larger than the movie itself. Luckily, that is not the case. After all, it opens with a decapitation on Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster.
05/06/2014 | Comments 0


William Friedkin spends a lot of time in his 2013 memoir discussing why Sorcerer didn't click with critics and audiences even though he believes it to be better than his previous film, The Exorcist. Now that Warner Home Video has reissued Sorcerer on Blu-ray, we can see what Friedkin's fuss is all about.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Broadchurch: The Complete First Season

Welcome to the coastal resort of Broadchurch, population … oh, who can keep track, what will all the corpses? Yes, Broadchurch is yet another British television procedural involving the search for a murderer in a quaint little town, just like the limited series The Fall and Top of the Lake.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones

Essentially part five in the ridiculously profitable horror franchise, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones continues the found-footage conceit of the other films. The difference is instead of the scares taking place in rich white suburbia, they do so in a junky apartment complex on a largely Latino side of Oxnard, Calif.
04/23/2014 | Comments 0

Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · Life, Above All

Life, Above All

In ‘Life, Above All,’ the impact of AIDS is rarely stated, but often heard.

Phil Bacharach September 14th, 2011

AIDS is rarely mentioned in “Life, Above All.” It’s referred to obliquely — a “bug,” “the other thing” — but its grim presence is always felt. When a character finally does call it by name, late in the movie, the effect is startling.

Opening soon exclusively at AMC Quail Springs Mall 24, the South African film is a mostly unflinching look at the enormous and devastating social consequences the disease still exerts in a part of the world where nearly 12 percent of the population has it. 

The story, while harrowing, sidesteps becoming advocacy cinema by casting itself in a coming-of-age mode. Based on a young-adult novel, the picture places us squarely in the perspective of Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka), a smart and determined 12-year-old girl living with her mother and two half-siblings in rural South Africa.

It can be heartwrenchingly sad.

The opening minutes set the tone for what will follow. A pensive Chanda goes by herself to a business. We don’t know what she’s there to buy, but the salesman is surprised she’s unaccompanied. Leading her into a dark room, the salesman assures Chanda he has “all kinds of models for infants.” He switches on the light to reveal a storeroom of tiny wood coffins.

Soon enough, we learn that Chanda’s baby sister has died. Chanda has to make arrangements because her mother, Lillian (Lerato Mvelase), is wasting away from AIDS.

Lillian is shunned by her neighbors and a drunkard husband who accuses her of having killed their child with “poisoned” breast milk. The agonies mount. Chanda’s best friend (Keaobaka Makanyane), already deemed the town slut, spirals into a life of prostitution. Meanwhile, Chanda’s mother grows thinner and weaker, leaving the girl to endure the disapproving stares and whispered judgments of the community.

If “Life, Above All” reads like bloated melodrama, rest assured that director Oliver Schmitz infuses the dire goings-on with quiet, understated urgency. It can be heart-wrenchingly sad, but Chanda and her family reject self-pity. Schmitz receives stunning help from cinematographer Bernhard Jasper, who bathes the ramshackle South African milieu in a kind of desolate splendor.

Best of all is Manyaka. The first-time actress admirably carries the movie, her face a mix of pain, tenacity and quiet acceptance. The film is at its most affecting when it allows the camera to linger on her expressive face. In fact, the only real stumbles of “Life, Above All” — and they’re not insignificant — come when it widens its focus to include the vantage point of other characters. Chanda’s story is what registers above all.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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