Starring: Khomotso Manyaka, Lerato Mvelase, Keaobaka Makanyane
Directed by: Oliver Schmitz (“Hijack Stories”)
Written by: Dennis Foon (“A Shine of Rainbows”)

There is no denying the emotional fortitude that creates the pulse in the harrowing film “Life, Above All.” As South Africa’s entry for a nomination in the last year’s Academy Awards, “Life” may not have been one of the final five foreign films to get a nod, but the overwhelmingly somber tone it builds its impacting narrative on is a definite reason the country should be proud of the talent it is producing.

Directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz, “Life” introduces audiences to its central character, a young girl named Chandra (Khomotso Manyaka), at the beginning of a family tragedy. Her baby sister has passed away and gossip quickly spreads around the village about how Chandra’s mother Lillian (Lerato Mvelase) might be involved in her death.

Attempting to keep her family together despite the harsh rumors and her mother’s diminishing health, Chandra must come to terms with the truth about her sister and her inability to control things that are far too demanding of any teenager to handle. It is through her strong will and unbreakable spirit that Chandra finds the courage to push forward against those who don’t understand what it means to die with dignity.

First time actress Khomotso Manyaka is a brilliant find by Schmitz. Her performance alongside Mvelase’s is amazingly realistic and heartbreaking. Screenwriter Dennis Foon’s script manages to avoid spoon feeding the audience with obvious plot devices, which leaves more room to build on this empathetic mother and daughter who live for each other in a remorseless world.

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