Last week I got to attend the opening of the movie "Liyana" in NYC. I thought it covered the very sensitive issue of children orphaned by AIDS with creativity and understanding. This is special if you get an opportunity check it out.
Liyana is a gorgeous story where the landscape includes a documentary about five orphans living in Swaziland and an animated folk tale created by them. When your country is peopled with over 100,000 children who are orphans growing up without their parents, one expects the stories told will be filled with strife, fear and hopelessness. Yet Liyana, the story created by the young people from Swaziland offers courage and healing, and a special look into the ravages of a country plagued by AIDS.
In the documentary, Gcina Mhlophe, the leader and activist in a storytelling workshop guides the children whose lives have been colored by abuse, violence, hunger and AIDS to create a character that mirrors their own lives. Liyana, the character they create is a good daughter. She is there for her mother when her twin brothers Thunder and Lightening are born, she cares for her mother when she gets sick and endures the violence of her father. When her twin brothers are kidnapped she sets out with her beloved bull on a heroic journey to find them. This journey entails violence, hunger and despair along with brutal robbers, snapping crocodiles and a mean monster. The children are all to familiar with these obstacles so will they allow their heroine to overcome her trials or will she drown in despair?. With guidance from Mhlophe the children decide her fate, and in the process they create a powerful story that resonates with young and old.
In Liyana, the children "conjure a world of danger and enchantment that the directors (Amanda and Aaron Kopp) bring to life" while the animation from Nigerian artist Shofela Coker brings a visually rich and pictorial quality to the screen. Her sensual sunrise and lucious mangoes creates a world that is inviting despite the hardships of Liyana's life. The orphans' and Liyana's story are both touching and worth sharing. The film is on limited distribution in various locations so check their website for showings and distribution information.