Film based on Chanda’s Secrets official selection of the 2010 Cannes Film Festival

The award-winning book Chanda’s Secrets has yet another honor to add to its list. The feature film, Life Above All, based on the novel by Allan Stratton and directed by Oliver Schmitz, has been named an official selection at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival. This is the first time a film adaptation of a Canadian YA novel has been an official selection at Cannes. The film is running in the category Un Certain Regard with Claire Denis as jury president.

A co-production between Dreamer Joint Venture Filmproduktion of Germany and Enigma Films of South Africa, the film tells the heart-breaking story of Chanda, a 16-year-old South African girl who is caught in the devastating AIDS pandemic with all its pain, loss, shame and guilt. It is, nevertheless, a story of hope as Chanda’s tremendous courage helps her find meaning and purpose in life despite the tragic events which afflict her and everyone she loves.

Described by the Globe and Mail as “a finely nuanced, beautifully articulated polemic, with a sparkling main character,” and by Stephen Lewis, former UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, as a “powerful story (that) hits home with its harsh truths, its pain and its hard-won hopefulness,” Chanda’s Secrets was first published in 2004 by Annick Press. Among its many honors, it has been named a Michael L. Printz Honor Book for Excellence in YA Literature, a Best Book for Older Readers by the Children’s Africana Book Awards and a finalist for Le prix sorcières of France. There are currently 11 foreign editions available in over 30 countries.

The screenplay, written by author, playwright and screenwriter Dennis Foon, was translated into a local dialect. Featuring an exclusively South African cast, the film is being released with English subtitles. Director Oliver Schmitz is a German–South African who is closely attached to the history of his native country. His debut film, Mapantsula, depicting the grim reality of South Africa’s black population, was made during the Apartheid without any shooting permits and under great personal risk. Seen around the world, the film received numerous awards and celebrated its world premiere at the Cannes International Film Festival, as did his drama Hijack Stories in 2001. Author Allan Stratton was on the set for most of the filming and recorded the experience on his blog,

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