Life, Above All – now on DVD.

Time magazine’s list of the 10 best movie performances for 2011 includes a South African girl, Khomotso Manyaka, cast as Chanda in the film, Life, Above All, based on the Allan Stratton novel “Chanda’s Secrets.”  The film is about a young girl (Khomotso), living in a small, AIDS-infested South African township who struggles to maintain the façade of normality amidst crushing odds: her stepfather is an alcoholic, her newborn sister has just died, and her mother has been diagnosed with the AIDS virus. As Chanda’s mother’s illness becomes apparent, the community turns against the family, misinterpreting the disease as some form of retribution for their sins. Now 15, Manyaka was only 13 years old at the time of filming.

Khomotso Manyaka gives the performance of a lifetime.

Khomotso said of her performance: “I’m very proud of myself – 2011 was a great year.”  She went onto reveal that the recognition makes her “happy” and “surprises” her because she “never knew I had talent.”  After the film, she and her co-star and friend Keaobaka Makanyane received scholarships to the National School of the Arts.

Time Magazine says of Manyaka’s performance:

“Khomotso Manyaka was no Hollywood moppet, just a South African girl who had never acted, when director Oliver Schmitz picked her for the lead role in this starkly poignant drama about a family, a village, and a people devastated by the Aids plague.

“Given the challenge, Manyaka invested the part of Chanda, the sole strength of her ravaged clan, with amazing poise, delicacy and grit.”

“Life, Above All” and Khomotso’s performance particularly as she acts in almost every scene – have gathered several high-profile accolades. Last year, Khomotso received the best actress award at the SA Film and TV Awards, and in 2010 she won the best actress award at the Durban International Film Festival.

The film was also shortlisted by the Academy Awards committee in the category of Best Foreign Film.

When it screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2010, “Life, Above All,” received a 10-minute standing ovation.

Other movies and actors named to the list include Octavia Spencer, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain and Bryce Dallas Howard for The Help; Former Child Star
Mia Wasikowska for Jane Eyre; Brad Pitt for Tree of Life, Money Ball and Happy Feet 2 and Meryl Streep for Iron Lady.
Source: Time Magazine