Review: In ‘Liyana,’ Swaziland Orphans Turn Hardship Into a Folk Tale

By addressing strife in Africa in a roundabout way, “Liyana” breaks free of the heaviness in which can weigh down an issue-based documentary. The movie, directed by Aaron as well as Amanda Kopp, follows a group of orphans at a home in Swaziland as they take part in a storytelling workshop.

With the workshop leader, the writer as well as performer Gcina Mhlophe, focusing their instincts, the children devise a folk tale about a girl named Liyana who sets off, using a friendly bull, to rescue her brothers via thieves who have abducted as well as plan to sell them.

In addition to crocodiles, hyenas as well as a monster, many of the real-life hardships the children have witnessed or experienced — hunger, the prospect of trafficking, parental abuse as well as deaths via AIDS — work their way into the tale, presented in strikingly rendered animation via Shofela Coker, a Nigerian artist based in San Diego. “Liyana” crosscuts between the children telling the story as well as the otherwise-wordless animated sequences, which are more like illustrations in motion — brightly hued as well as textured, with the camera sometimes the only source of movement.

“Liyana” includes warm scenes of Mhlophe’s class brainstorming, drawing as well as painting. The movie also shows the children going about their lives apart via the workshop. (We sit with one boy as he awaits the results of an H.I.V. test.) There are ways in which “Liyana” might seem to put too rosy a spin on its subject matter, however the idea shows the optimism as well as self-awareness in which can come via creativity.

Liyana
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 17 minutes.