Life, Above All cements SA’s film industry talent

2010-05-26 09:39

Khomotso Manyake is only 13 years old, but is fast becoming a brand

in the film industry, following a glowing reception at the Cannes Film Festival

last week.

A first-time actress, Manyake won over audiences with her

performance in the film Life, Above All, which won a Prix Francois Chalais Award

on the festival fringe this week.

So too did her co-stars Harriet Manamela and Lerato Mvelase.

Together, the three actresses left Cannes cinema theatre after the film’s world

premiere to throngs of applause and praise.

Life, Above All, which is based on an award-winning novel entitled

Chanda’s Secrets by Allan Stratton, tells the story of a young girl whose mother

is ill from Aids-related complications.

There are some heartbreaking scenes in the film, which may have

appeared to be difficult on the young Manyake, who is from the township of

Elandsdoorn in the Eastern Cape where the film was shot.

But the teenager, whose

mother is an HIV counsellor, said the support she got from film director Oliver

Schmitz and the rest of the cast was all she needed.

“It wasn’t hard because they helped me a lot. Everyone was there

for me when I needed them. Lerato and Harriet helped me; they were like my

parents. They became guardians to me.”

Mvelase plays Chanda’s mother, Lillian, while Manamela, who has

worked with Schmitz before in the film Hijack Stories, plays the nosey and

fearful neighbour, Mrs Tafa.

Mvelase too, is no stranger to the film and TV world, having

recently filmed Class Act and been the presenter for Open University.

But this

is the first time either of these seasoned actresses has been to the Cannes Film


And it’s an experience that has left a lasting impression.

“We’ve been so overwhelmed, especially on the day of the

screening,” said Mvelase.

“It’s an experience that just makes you think, when we

go back home I wish people can start recognising our own talent, and we take

care of it. We’ve produced good work and we’re happy about that.”

But recognition is something that was sorely missing from the South

African party in Cannes where Lulu Xingwana, minister of arts and culture in

South Africa, praised American actors, Terrence Howard and Jennifer Hudson, from

the movie Winnie, yet made no mention of Life, Above All – the only local film

to make it into the official selection at the festival.

Mvelase is saddened by this: “It really hurts. It felt like we were

outsiders in our own party.”

Nevertheless, this hasn’t dented Manyake’s spirit from doing what

she does best: acting. “I learnt a lot from doing this. It (acting in Life,

Above All) taught me a lot of things. I learned a lot about life, but I want to

learn more.”


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