About the guide: This study guide is designed for educators discussing the film LIYANA in their middle and high school classrooms. Discussion questions and activities encourage students to develop their storytelling skills as well as important life skills of empathy and resilience. Lessons are aligned to standards so educators can supplement their language arts and social studies curriculum with activities that also promote media literacy and social justice.
About the film: Young Swazi orphans are invited to create a story together out of their deep suffering and rich imaginations. Famed South African storyteller Gcina Mhlophe encourages them to envision a character and draw, write, and enact the adventure. They invent Liyana and her dangerous quest to rescue her twin brothers from human traffickers. Aaron and Amanda Kopp (The Hunting Ground, MVFF 2015) highlight the simple joy and beauty of the children at work and play in their group home on a farm. The horrors they’ve faced—hunger, abuse, violence, death of parents from HIV/AIDS—haven’t diminished their creativity and willingness to hope. This backstory, the children’s vivid enactment of Liyana’s journey, and gorgeous 3D and 2D animation by Shofela Coker’s team are artfully intercut to immerse us fully in the adventure. Through collective storytelling, the orphans deepen their resilience by shaping Liyana’s quest and becoming heroes and heroines in their own lives.