THERE are some movies that really bring tears to your eyes, some that bring realities of life to the forefront like this Oliver Schmitz film Life, Above All - a film that follows the life of young Chanda (played by Khomotso Manyaka) who is burdened with the responsibility to look after her very young siblings after her mother contracts AIDS.
This 2010 South African drama has that human touch - bringing issues like stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV and AIDS to the attention of the world.
Although the film was in a foreign language with English subtitles, I quite enjoyed the messages and the examples the director plucked out from society to address these issues.
One was how Chanda's busy-body neighbours shunned them because of rumours that her mother was very sick from the AIDS virus.
They gossiped as they walked past and out of fear, gathered in front of the house demanding she come out, some even ready to stone her because of her state of health.
The most obvious part of their dislike was the expressions on their faces whenever Chanda or her mother was around. If looks could kill, Chanda's poor mother would have been dead already. They probably thought that by associating with the family, they would also come into contact with the virus. In their small community, much like ours, nothing gets spared from gossip.
That saying 'it's a small world' really did apply in this community.
When all the gossip about the cause of death of Chanda's new-born sister was spreading like wildfire, her mother took off without anyone knowing. Imagine, this 12-year-old girl left school and walked to her grandmother's place somewhere in the desert. When she does reach there, she learns that even her relatives had shunned her mother after they heard the rumours; her mother moved to an isolated place by the hillside and lived there alone waiting for death to take her. Angry and distressed at the treatment towards her mother, Chanda finds her mother and takes her home.
Chanda is very strongwilled and determined to keep her family together despite having to deal with a drunkard step-father who drinks away all their savings, a brat little sister who thinks she's Queen B, and a 'vakils' (know-it-all) neighbour, Mrs Tafa (Harriet Lenabe), who at first was the biggest limuri but changed her attitude and finally plucked the courage to stand up for the family against the prejudice and violent community.
To top it off all that drama, Chanda's best friend Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane) who's about the same age, is a real valoloma case and another challenge for Chanda. So young and left to fend for herself in a tin-shack, Esther has no other choice but to engage in prostitution for a few bucks.
She is also shunned by her community who, instead of trying to help her out of her lifestyle, turn their back on her and give her those threatening and evil looks of disgust making her feel worthless and ashamed.
She turns to Chanda after being beaten and gang raped by some clients who left her by the roadside to die.
Bloodied and bruised, Esther finds solace in Chanda who nurses her back to health and inspires Esther to change her ways. In a way, Life, Above All portrays universal messages of tolerance, understanding and acceptance.
The value of life is highlighted through the sufferings Chanda's mother experienced, the challenges Esther encountered and the sacrifices Chanda made for the sake of her family. Often at times, we tend to forget how important life really is and this film is a reminder of just that.