Review: A gorgeous children’s tale of loss and light

Liyana.
Liyana.

Directed by: Aaron and Amanda Kopp

Animated by: Shofela Coker

5 out of 5 stars

Liyana, which means rain in siSwati, is a film unlike anything you’ve seen before.

For one thing, it’s a documentary-animation hybrid. For another, it’s based on stories by and is narrated by orphaned children in Swaziland.

Produced by renowned actress Thandie Newton, the film is directed by Aaron Kopp, who was raised in Swaziland, and his partner Amanda Kopp.

A beautiful young sun-kissed girl with a wonderful Afro embodies Liyana, who through the children’s vibrant imagination, goes on a mission with her cow to rescue her kidnapped twin brothers.

We are taken along on a journey of pain and loss as the film moves from animation to documentary.

Statistics reveal that Swaziland has a high HIV and Aids rate that has left many young children with the colossal task of managing child-headed homes.

It is orphans, then, who reveal this imagined world based on their traumatic experiences of loss.

Liyana could easily have been a talking-heads documentary with statistics and infographics and the like, but gratefully the filmmakers embraced an innovative route to keep us entertained all the while educating, all wrapped in gorgeous animation by young Nigerian artist Shofela Coker.

It is through tapping into childlike imagination and then charming the senses that Liyana is a able to send such a strong and important message.

It’s a tear-jerker that tells of childhoods robbed, but it also puts a smile on your face, with the innocence of childhood exuding with a tender lightness that carries the film effortlessly till its end.

• If you’re in Durban you can catch a screening of Liyana on July 20 at Gateway Mall at 6pm and July 23 at the Musgrave Centre at 4.30pm

This story is a product of the Talents Press programme at the Durban FilmMart, a project of the Durban International Film Festival

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