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Swaziland, Qatar, USA


1h 17m

Director Aaron Kopp

Starring Gcina Mhlophe

Genre Animation, Documentary

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In this genre-defying documentary, five children from an orphanage in Swaziland craft the tale of Liyana, a young girl on a dangerous quest to save her twin brothers. Liyana's tale is grounded in the difficult experiences of these children, whose own stories are woven into the film.


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Film Threat by Brian Thompson

Though Liyana often feels more like an exercise in storytelling than a complete narrative, it is heartwarming to see the kids light up as they work together to create art out of their hardship.

Variety by Guy Lodge

It’s a simple but stirring tale, lent character by the boys’ endearingly eager telling and atmospheric texture by Coker’s inspired visual interpretation.

The Film Stage by Jared Mobarak

A unique hybrid wherein fact is projected through a prism of fiction as both a mechanism to educate outsiders and heal from within.

L.A. Weekly by Karen Han

The animation that brings Liyana to life, created by Shofela Coker, is gorgeous, but the reason it resonates has everything to do with the way it’s woven into footage of the children telling Liyana’s story or going about their everyday business.

Los Angeles Times by Kimber Myers

The children’s stories alone would have been compelling, but illustrating them in this medium adds even more depth, nuance and emotion.
88 by Matt Fagerholm

As tough as the subject matter may get at times, the film is guaranteed to be an uplifting one for viewers of all ages, with its emphasis placed on the joy of its subjects, whether it be in their everyday life or in the midst of their creative process.

Movie Nation by Roger Moore

Liyana is still a wonder, and the story the kids cook up themselves every bit as epic as the one Disney plagiarized for “The Lion King.” This effort turns out so delightful that somebody should hire these children as focus group consultants the next time Hollywood wants to tell a tale of Africa.