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Best Child-Actor Performances On Film (Survey)

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act June 17, 2011 at 8:37AM

Earlier today, I attended a press screening of a beautiful yet tragic South African drama titled Life, Above All - a film we've covered a bit on S&A, including a review from MsWOO who saw it the London Film Festival last year (read her thoughts HERE).
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Earlier today, I attended a press screening of a beautiful yet tragic South African drama titled Life, Above All - a film we've covered a bit on S&A, including a review from MsWOO who saw it the London Film Festival last year (read her thoughts HERE).

The film, directed by Oliver Schmitz, opens in limited release in the USA, on July 15th, so, those of you in New York and LA will be able to check it out for yourselves.

I'll be writing my own review of the film soon, but I was immediately struck by an aspect of it that inspired this post. Specifically, the performance by the star of the film, 13-year old Khomotso Manyaka (although she was likely 11 years old when the film was actually shot in 2009). She carries the entire film; I don't think there's a single scene in the almost 2 hour movie that she isn't in. So its success depends almost entirely on her performance, and whether you believe her or not. I did. It's a solid performance for a kid, given the weight she's asked to carry here!

Several others agree with me apparently, as the film reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year, and was shortlisted by the Academy Awards committee in the Best Foreign Feature Film category; it also received acclaim at the Toronto Film Festival, Dubai Film Festival, and others. And it won 6 Awards at the South African Film And Television Awards (SAFTA’s), including Best Lead Actress in A Feature Film by the 13 year-old star.

And what's even more impressive about all this is that, this was her very first film!!

So, it all got me thinking... child actors. I had to think hard to remember the last time I watched a film that centered almost entirely around a kid, told from their POV... and that's made for adults. What can I say? I guess most of the films I watch tell stories primarily about the lives of adults, with children as peripheral characters; and it's not necessarily a conscious thing; it just is. I'm an adult, so I'm drawn to adult stories.

But maybe you folks can help me out here, and school me on some titles. My question for you all is, in light of all that I've said, give me your short lists of films with stories that revolve around children (of any color), in which, from your POV, the child actors give really good performances that define the film.

As for what age I'm thinking of when I use the word "children," let's go with pre-teens; So, 12 and under.

Have at it! And by the way, if you haven't seen it yet, here's the trailer for Life, Above All:


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