LFF Review: Liyana

Whether consciously or not an author’s own life experiences have a habit of creeping into their work. Heroes and villains often spring from our memories, dreams and imaginations. Early Childhood relationships can have a huge influence on what we do with our lives. Things might look grim in 2017 but it’s easy to forget how privileged many of us are to grow up in a safe, secure and stable environment. In Liyana, Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp’s new documentary/animation, they take a unique look at the narrative of childhood. Allowing five Swazi orphans to channel their own experiences through the titular heroine.

Liyana is a young girl living with her grandmother and young brothers in Swaziland. Their home is attacked by a gang and the twins are kidnapped. Despite her injuries, Liyana embarks on a rescue mission, accompanied only by her trusted bull. The tale is devised and progressed by our young collaborators. Their inspiration is drawn from their own (mainly tragic) personal experiences before entering the children’s home. Liyana is a sum of all their suffering. Whilst it’s a tragic tale, it’s also a hopeful one.

Mixing documentary footage of the children at the home with their animated creation, Liyana is a compelling and powerful insight into their lives. By drawing their stories out through the guise of a heroine, the Kopps paint a tragic picture of in southern Africa for many unfortunate youngsters. The spectre of AIDS looms large and their futures look bleak. However, they still have hope that, despite all the odds stacked against them, they can have long and prosperous lives. Liyana’s story blossoms though beautiful animation, interwoven with the story of the real heroes; the children themselves.

Liyana screens at London Film Festival on 7 & 9 October.

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