Maybe you're gonna weep at the tale of a child paying a steep price for a community's silence. Maybe you're gonna take heart at the thought that one voice, breaking through that silence, can rescue not just the child, but all those around her, even the ones insisting on that fearful hush. Either way, Life, Above All -- the new film by director Oliver Schmitz, based on the young adult novel Chanda's Secrets by Allan Stratton -- is a beautifully powerful exploration of a still-troubling problem of the third world. Shooting on location in the South African township of Elandsdoorn using mostly hand-held cameras, Schmitz tells the tale of a young girl, Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka), coping with the death of her newly-born sister and the incapacitation of her mother, a task made all the more daunting in a town where the word AIDS dare not be uttered. With spare elegance and impressive performances from a largely first-time, juvenile cast, Schmitz explores how fear and superstition can destroy the lives of those whose lives have barely begun. The message is important, and the impact indelible.
Click on the player to hear my interview with Schmitz.