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Review | ‘Liyana’ proves to be as beautiful as it is educational.

“Liyana” is born in the minds of five orphaned children in Swaziland who collaborate to tell a story drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams.

In “Liyana,” a Swazi girl embarks on a dangerous quest to rescue her young twin brothers. This animated African tale is born in the imaginations of five orphaned children in Swaziland who collaborate to tell a story of perseverance drawn from their darkest memories and brightest dreams. Their fictional character’s journey is interwoven with poetic and observational documentary scenes to create a genre-defying celebration of collective storytelling. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Talia J. comments, “Liyana is a beautiful documentary that not only educates people about epidemics that are occurring in Africa, but gives a creative animated story created by children.” See her full review below.

Liyana is a beautiful documentary that not only educates people about epidemics that are occurring in Africa, but gives a creative animated story created by children.

Liyana is about five Swaziland orphans who, under the guidance of storyteller Gcina Mhlophe, create their own fictional character that embarks on a journey to save her brothers. The story directly correlates to the struggles they are experiencing and their own dreams. The character they create, named Liyana, is fully animated throughout the film.

This film is one that everyone needs to watch. Sometimes, we get so caught up in our own lives and take a lot of things for granted. This film highlights the struggles of these orphaned African children. Some of them don’t even remember anything about their parents. The film really open your eyes to an unfamiliar place and allows you to connect on a personal level with some of their struggles. This documentary is not intended to pity the children in any way, but to inspire others to follow in their footsteps. I find these children completely inspiring, because they are prepared to do anything to make their dreams come true. They live their lives every day with happiness and passion.

The animation is quite unique in many ways. It is very still and the characters rarely move. It’s a very interesting way to animate. I have never seen anything quite like this. It’s intriguing to see the subtle movements of the characters and the subtle sound effects in the background. The orphans that the film revolves around are storytellers of the film. I love hearing them express the characters. They occasionally make sounds to portray the weather such as thunder and then make sounds representing actions of the animated character Liyana. Overall, the sound and music in this film feels quite lively and upbeat. The music brings a huge cultural aspect to the film because the lyrics are in their native tongue. The music is quite beautiful and expresses African heritage.

This film takes you on a whirlwind of emotion. People hear about horrific events on the news, but don’t really find a personal connection to the struggles that people around the world face. This film provides a personal account on how children deal with disease and family issues. By show the audience real people dealing with their struggles, this film can help spread the word about people around the world needing help and teach us that their problems are not just something to flip through as you change TB channels.

Definitely put this film on your watch list. It deals with some harsh topics such as disease and abuse, but it does so in a sensitive way. I recommend this film for ages of 12 to 18, as well as adults. The story is fascinating and the realness of the film gives us insight into the lives of African orphans. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars. It comes out on October 9 so go check it out!

See the trailer for “Liyana” below:

— Talia Jacnuk, age 15, Kids First! Film Critic

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