Life, Above All (12A)

Starring: Khomotso Manyaka, Aubrey Poolo
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The Independent Culture

The spectre of Aids hangs heavily on this modest South African drama. Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka) is a 12-year-old schoolgirl mourning the death of her young sister and struggling to cope with a family that's falling apart: her mother is suffering from a mystery illness, her stepfather is a fall-down drunk, and her best friend is prostituting herself at the local truck-stop.

At times the atmosphere of hopelessness becomes too much for her (and maybe a bit too much for the audience) but director Oliver Schmitz eases the burden with sharp character observation and a stoical sense of comedy. Manyaka is tremendous in the lead role.