'Life, Above All' Leads July Moving Lineup

Friday, July 8, 2011

"Life Above All," is Jennifer Merin's top vote for movies coming out in July. It's a runaway success in South Africa and tells a story of friendship and devotion helping to overcome the social stigma surrounding HIV in rural South Africa.

(WOMENSENEWS)--If you see just one film during July, make it "Life, Above All."

The film--the first feature to be shot entirely in the Sotho language--was a huge success in South Africa and its first official Oscars submission in 2010. It opens July 15 in the United States with English subtitles.

Set in rural South Africa, the consciousness-raising coming-of-age feature focuses on Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka), a teen who shows the how personal courage can overcome the superstition, shame and social stigma surrounding HIV.

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Directed by Oliver Schmitz, with a script by Dennis Foon and based on Alan

Stratton's novel, this beautiful film transports us into the daily lives of South African women.

There's Chandra, her HIV-infected mother (Lerato Mvelase), an influential neighbor (Harriet Manamela) in denial that her beloved son died of AIDS and her abandoned and abused best friend, Esther (Keaobaka Makanyane), who has probably been exposed to the virus. The profoundly personal performances, supported by intimate cinematography, emerge like beams of light from dark places. Go see for yourself!

I also highly recommend "The Sleeping Beauty," directed by the always-provocative Catherine Breillat. The film bears no resemblance to the Disney animation and is tagged with a parents' advisory for good reason. It's a dark, brooding, mysterious, twisted and lavishly sensuous treatment of the classic tale, embellished by familiar motifs from other culturally embedded fables. Breillat uses indomitable female characters and creatures to fearlessly explore sexual instinct and behavior that has been beset by social taboo and guilt. "The Sleeping Beauty" opens July 8.

My final leading recommendation: "Third Star," former journalist Hattie Dalton's impressive feature film debut, opens July 9. Set in scenic Wales, it's about three fellows who are summoned by a friend, James (Benedict Cumberbatch), who has been diagnosed with cancer and wants to take a farewell road trip for the sake of fun, adventure and friendship. No spoilers here, but there's a big emotional payoff in the end.

Backing up a bit, two great documentaries opened on July 1.

Presented by the Oprah Winfrey Network, (OWN), Yoav Potash's "Crime After Crime" is about the case of Deborah Peagler, a woman tried and convicted for participating in the murder of her husband. Her past of being forced into prostitution and repeated beatings was never revealed during her trial. Peagler was jailed for 26 years before her case was reopened by volunteer lawyers. They managed to have her sentence reduced to six years, or about one-fifth of the time she'd already been incarcerated. It's a harrowing story and Peagler is a strongly compelling lead character.

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