Ajyal Film Festival 2019

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Ajyal Competition - Ajyal Youth Film Festival 2017

Aaron Kopp, Amanda Kopp / Feature Documentary / Swaziland, Qatar, United States of America / 2017 / 76 min / Colour / DCP / In English, Siswati / Arabic, English subtitles / MENA Premiere
Rated: Parental guidance advised for viewers under the age of 15. Individuals under the age of 15 are not admitted into cinemas unless accompanied by an individual aged 18 or over.


Liyana is a young, fictional girl created by several young orphans in Swaziland, where the scourge of AIDS has ravaged the population, leaving hundreds of thousands of children to fend for themselves. In a storytelling workshop, the youngsters learn to create a central character for their story, then draw on their own – often ghastly and horrifying – true-life experiences to create an exciting adventure for their heroine, which relies on her bravery, cleverness and sheer determination. Over the course of her quest, Liyana and her trusty bull traverse across rivers and mountains, through forest and desert, in search of their goal.
‘Liyana’ adeptly uses documentary elements to show the gradual building of the story by the enthusiastic children, while at the same time providing a beautifully animated version of the adventure story itself. As we witness the imagining of Liyana’s home – a simple mud hut – the fate of her parents, the terror she experiences, and the reason that she must voyage into the mountains, we also see the troubled youth exposing – and banishing – their own fears. This compelling film is a magnificent tribute to creativity, imagination and the healing power of that fundamental human activity: storytelling.

Official Film Website

About the Director

Aaron Kopp is an award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-nominated cinematographer who grew up in Swaziland. He shot and co-produced ‘Saving Face’ (2012), an Academy Award-winning documentary about acid attacks in Pakistan, and was also cinematographer for ‘The Hunting Ground’ (2015), a documentary about sexual assault on college campuses that had its premiere at Sundance. His short film ‘Likhaya’ (2009) won People’s Choice and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. He has worked around the world on films for numerous television outlets, and was awarded a MacArthur Foundation grant for ‘Liyana’, his upcoming feature-length directorial debut.

Amanda Kopp is an award-winning photographer and artist. She was the producer and cinematographer for the short film ‘Likhaya’ (2009), which won a Golden Palm, and People’s Choice and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. She also shot for ‘The Hunting Ground’, which premiered at Sundance in 2015. Kopp’s work has been published in the UK, the USA, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Pakistan and Italy. Her photographs won the Grand Prize in the Photo District News Top Knots photography competition. She is now co-directing her first feature length documentary, ‘Liyana’, with funds from a MacArthur Foundation grant.


Aaron Kopp, Amanda Kopp
Sakheni Dlamini, Aaron Kopp, Amanda Kopp, Daniel Junge
Davis Coombe, Aaron Kopp
Executive Producer
Thandie Newton, Susan Maclaury, Albie Hecht, Lisa Schejola Akin
Philip Miller
Bridget Pickering
Philip Miller
Aaron Kopp
Production Company
Intaba Creative
Animation Artist: Shofela Coker, Story Advisor: Gcina Mhlophe
Gcina Mhlophe


  • Producer

    Aaron Kopp

    Intaba Creative

  • Producer

    Amanda Kopp

    Intaba Creative

  • Production Company

    AJK Film LLC (Amanda Kopp & Aaron Kopp)

    AJK Film LLC (Amanda Kopp & Aaron Kopp)

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