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Life, Above All (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)

4.4 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Just after the death of her newly born sister, Chanda (12) learns of a rumour spreading through her small village near Johannesburg. It destroys her family and forces her mother to flee. Chanda leaves home and school in search of her mother - and the truth. Life, Above All is an emotional and universal drama about a young girl (stunningly performed by first-time-actress Khomotso Manyaka) who fights the fear and shame that have poisoned her community. The film captures the enduring strength of loyalty and a courage powered by the heart. Directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz (Mapantsula, Paris, je t-aime), it is based on the international award winning novel 'Chanda's Secrets' by Allan Stratton.

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Through the eyes of a stoic 12-year-old, German-South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz (Mapantsula) tells a tale both specific and universal. As it begins, Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka, an arresting presence) has lost her baby sister to an undisclosed illness. To make matters worse, her stepfather, Jonah, has stolen money from her mother, Lillian (Lerato Mvelase), to buy alcohol, so Chanda, who lives just outside Johannesburg, wrests it back so Sara can have a proper funeral. It's a small victory before her troubles start to accumulate. Then Lillian falls ill, so Chanda helps to care for her younger siblings with assistance from Mrs. Tafa (Harriet Lenabe), a neighbor who loves them as if they were her own (her son passed away years before). Unfortunately, the widow is as pious as the rest of the township; she doesn't just look down on Jonah, but on Chanda's friend Esther (the soulful Keaobaka Makanyane), an orphan who wears outfits she finds inappropriate. But the girl has a sweet disposition, and Chanda takes solace in their friendship. As Lillian's condition worsens, Mrs. Tafa recommends she return home, ostensibly to recover, leaving Chanda to tend to Esther by herself when she suffers an attack. Only when the situation couldn't get much worse do Chanda's fortunes finally begin to improve. In adapting Allan Stratton's young adult novel Chanda's Secrets, Schmitz illustrates the consequences for an entire community when ignorance and superstition overtake comfort and support for those struggling with substance abuse and AIDS. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

Special Features

The Making of Life, Above All

Product Details

  • Actors: Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Manamela, Khomotso Manyaka, Lerato Mvelase, Tinah Mnumzana
  • Directors: Oliver Schmitz
  • Producers: Oliver Stolz, Oliver Stoltz
  • Format: Blu-ray, AC-3, Color, Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: French, English
  • Subtitles for the Hearing Impaired: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Rated:
    PG-13
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: December 6, 2011
  • Run Time: 106 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005MYEPZ0
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,257 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Life, Above All (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Tommy Dooley TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 29, 2012
Format: DVD
This moving film is based on the book `Chanda's Secret's' by Allan Stratton and has been adapted for the screen by the much talented Oliver Schmitz (Paris Je te'aime). It is the story of Chanda played with great ability by first time actress Khomotso Manyaka. Her father is dead and her mother has remarried a no good alcoholic who has borne him three more children, Chanda is the eldest and so when her mother becomes `ill' she takes on the role of mother, carer and worrier for the whole family.

The step father is an alcoholic who has forgotten why he started drinking but not where to go for it and drunken `extra marital conjugation'. He also blames his wife for the death of their youngest child, but is still able to steal the funeral money for his own ends.

Into this mix Chanda has an only friend called Esther; this poor soul has no-one, no hope and no money. She ekes out an existence by selling her under age body to predators who stop at the local lorry park. Her `lifestyle choice' as some would call it means that she is cast out by the community. This community also believes in witchcraft, superstition and quack doctors. They also believe that `The Disease' -HIV is a punishment from God and that the person with it is possessed. Chanda is judged by the company she keeps and because she wants to do what is right she too gets judged.

This is a beautifully acted , directed and photographed piece of cinema, the story itself would have been compelling enough but so much more is thrown into the mix, that would be spoilers if divulged, that this becomes something special.
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Format: Amazon Video
The first reviewer gives an excellent synopsis of the film. Having visited S.A. I was pleased to recognize the "neighborhood" as realistic - including the neighbor party scene - one of the brighter, fun moments of the film.

(don't want to add spoilers) Chanda's courage to rescue and continue to love her friend Ester as well as the love she has for her mother is a beautiful thing to watch. She is quiet, compassionate and sure of herself. Not many girls in the west her age would have the maturity demonstrated by Chanda in this movie and there's a lesson to be learned by young and old alike to not be part of "the pack" - think for yourself.

Great little film. Enjoyed the story as well as the cinematography.
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Format: Blu-ray
This moving film is based on the book `Chanda's Secret's' by Allan Stratton and has been adapted for the screen by the much talented Oliver Schmitz (Paris Je te'aime). It is the story of Chanda played with great ability by first time actress Khomotso Manyaka. Her father is dead and her mother has remarried a no good alcoholic who has borne him three more children, Chanda is the eldest and so when her mother becomes `ill' she takes on the role of mother, carer and worrier for the whole family.

The step father is an alcoholic who has forgotten why he started drinking but not where to go for it and drunken `extra marital conjugation'. He also blames his wife for the death of their youngest child, but is still able to steal the funeral money for his own ends.

Into this mix Chanda has an only friend called Esther; this poor soul has no-one, no hope and no money. She ekes out an existence by selling her under age body to predators who stop at the local lorry park. Her `lifestyle choice' as some would call it means that she is cast out by the community. This community also believes in witchcraft, superstition and quack doctors. They also believe that `The Disease' -HIV is a punishment from God and that the person with it is possessed. Chanda is judged by the company she keeps and because she wants to do what is right she too gets judged.

This is a beautifully acted , directed and photographed piece of cinema, the story itself would have been compelling enough but so much more is thrown into the mix, that would be spoilers if divulged, that this becomes something special.
Read more ›
Comment One person found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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Format: Amazon Video
Life, Above All is not a film for the faint of heart. This gut-wrenching South African film, adapted from Alan Stratton's novel Chandra's Secret, is a fictional thread in a very real piece of South Africa's fabric, namely, children orphaned by AIDS. Chandra is a 12-year old girl, living with her mother and two younger siblings fathered by another man who is an alcoholic that returns to visit his children unexpectedly at random intervals. She lives in a village where gossip is the lifeblood of the community, coupled with a heightened sense of propriety and pharisaism. Life, Above All gives us the story of Chandra, who must face adult challenges as a young girl, must stare death in the face and yet remain true to herself. And more importantly, it asks us to question our prejudices.

The opening scenes of Life, Above All show Chandra having to arrange a funeral for her youngest sibling, who just died in infancy. We immediately see Chandra, as a young girl, forced to carry the responsibilities of a household's head because her mother is incapacitated and both her father and her step-father gone. Mrs. Tafa, their next door neighbor, plays the role of a helpful aunt. Chandra's mother is sick and they go to visit a doctor, but that doesn't help. Eventually, building up to the climax of the film, her mother leaves for her hometown in another village. In the meantime, Chandra takes in a girl who was forced into prostitution, much to Mrs. Tafa's consternation and the scandalization of the village.

Chandra keeps on trying to get ahold of her mother via telephone to ascertain the date of her return, but it seems almost impossible. It is revealed that Chandra's mother has HIV/AIDS and will not be returning in order to spare her children from stigmatization.
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