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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
I've been quite surprised if the quality of South African films from the latter years, and this is another example of this quality. And a South African film isn't only Dustrict 9 or Vehicle 19, which both were great, but also film like this little gem, based on the novel "Chanda's secrets" by Canadian Allan Stratton, and directed by the German director Oliver Schmitz, which is born in Cape Town, S.A.
Young Chanda, 12, is checking out the funeral for her little sister Sarah, which have suddenly died, getting to know that the money the mother kept has been stolen. Her father is an irresponsible drunk, and she realizes that her friend is selling services as a prostitute to the lorry drivers down town. Chanda begins to understand a lot about how the world functions. We get to see Chanda's poor neighborhood in Elandsdoorn outside of Johannesburg. Her mother turns ill just after, making even more challenges for Chanda, amongst them a lot of rumors and superstition. A superstition that adds deeply to the challenges in such a poor community.
The film was chosen for the "Un certain regard"-program under the Cannes Festival, very deservedly. I haven't read the novel, but I understand the film makes a good job, though having to let out some if the film to make a film out of it. Fine cinematography work, with great use of light focusing, and great job fond by the actors, makes this a very see-worthy film. It depicts the challenges which might occur in every society, but also the ones hitting especially hard in a poor neighborhood.
It's a beak realistically told film, even if it's a fictional tale. Still the film is not without hope. Chanda makes a big difference in her neighborhood, with her heart and sense of getting things right.
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