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Marcel van Heerden,
In the dusty small town of Elandsdoorn, a South African township not far from Johannesburg, life is simple and serene. A prevailing sense of deep pride tightly bonds together the entire community - but beware to those who step out of line ... 12-year-old Chanda is a hardworking promising young student with a bright future, but her life changes dramatically when her baby sister unexpectedly dies. Heartbroken, Chanda's mother, Lillian, in turn becomes severely ill. Her stepfather drowns himself in alcohol, leaving the young girl to take care of her two smaller siblings. Meanwhile, the formerly friendly neighbors become increasingly distant and gossip spreads. "Auntie" Tafa does what she can to help by getting Lillian to leave town, but not even "Auntie" is immune to the cloud of fear filtering across Elandsdoorn. Suspecting that the community's irrational ostracism has to do with her mother's illness and the death of her baby sister, Chanda demands answers but is met with stubborn ... Written by
South African screenwriter and director Oliver Schmitz' fourth feature film which he co-wrote with Canadian playwright and author Allan Stratton and American author and playwright Dennis Foon, is an adaptation of a novel called "Chanda's Secrets" from 2004 by Allan Stratton. It premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at the 63rd Cannes International Film Festival in 2010, was screened in the Contemporary World Cinema section at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in 2010, was shot on location in the province of Mpumalanga in South Africa and is a South Africa-Germany co-production which was produced by German producer Oliver Stoltz. It tells the story about Chanda who lives in a South African village with her mother Lillian and her half siblings Iris and Soly.
Precisely and engagingly directed by South African filmmaker Oliver Schmitz, this finely paced fictional tale which is narrated mostly from the main character's point of view, draws a moving and heartrending portrayal of a mother who does everything she can to shield her children from the judgment of her fellow citizens after losing her daughter and an adolescent student who whilst in the midst of her education strives to come to her mother's aid and understand why people are damning her. While notable for it's naturalistic milieu depictions, fine cinematography by cinematographer Bernhard Jasper, costume design by costume designer Nadia Kruger and use of music, this character-driven story depicts an empathic study of character.
This conversational and somewhat political drama which is set in the South African township of Elandsdoorn and which examines themes like family relations, friendship, Aids and survival, is impelled and reinforced by it's cogent narrative structure, substantial character development, interrelated stories and the commendable and involving acting performances by actresses Khomotso Monyaka, Keaobaka Makanyane, Harriet Manameta, Lerato Mvelase and Mapaseka Mathebe. A dramatic, humane and memorable coming-of-age tale.
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