SFIFF: Life, Above All & The Light Thief

Two pictures I saw Saturday that, by coincidence, happen to be adjacent to each other in the San Francisco International Film Festival‘s alphabetical list of films:

A Life, Above All. Children must often carry greater and more difficult burdens than they should bear. Occasionally, an unusual lifeaboveallchild is up to the task. That’s the case with 12-year-old Chanda (Khomotso Manyaka) in this remarkably touching film from South Africa. Her baby half-sister just died. Her step-father is a useless drunk. Her mother isn’t well, and is getting sicker. Two young half-siblings need care. Her mother’s close friend is more concerned with respectability than love.  Her own friend has become a prostitute. Somehow, she must find the strength to fight poverty, disease, and a disapproving community. The best film I’ve seen at the festival so far. Life, Above All screens again at the Kabuki on Thursday, at 6:00. Sony Classics has picked it up for a theatrical release.

B The Light Thief. Writer/director/star Aktam Arym Kuba plays a classic holy fool character in this atmospheric comedy (with traces of tragedy) from Kyrgyzstan. Knownlightthief simply as Mr. Light, he keeps the power running throughout the poor village. And if people can’t afford to pay for electricity, Mr. Light helps them steal it. He seems to have a blessed life, with an innocence that allows him to survive accidents that would be fatal to a more cynical individual. But when an ambitious and quite possibly corrupt politician wants to use our hero’s skills for his own schemes, Mr. Light must face a challenge to his unshakeable sense of right and wrong. The Light Thief plays Kabuki again on Monday at the  at 9:15, and at the Pacific Film Archive on Sunday, May 1, at 8:45.