Shine Global, a non-profit media company, is pleased to announce its involvement in the highly anticipated animated/documentary film, Liyana, directed by first time feature filmmakers Aaron Kopp and Amanda Kopp. Shine Global co-founders Susan MacLaury and longtime television executive Albie Hecht join as executive producers, bringing a wealth of expertise to an incredible team supporting the film.
This is the third major announcement for Shine Global in recent weeks. In late June, distributor Cinema Guild announced it acquired Shine Global’s award-winning documentary feature The Wrong Light and will release the film in theaters this fall. Previously, Sundance hit documentary The Eagle Huntress, produced in association with Shine Global with executive producer Susan MacLaury, was acquired by Sony Pictures Classics and will have a major release later this year.
Set in a home for orphans in Swaziland, Liyana focuses on 5 children aged 10 to 13 as they participate in a workshop led by acclaimed storyteller Gcina Mhlophe. The children collage together an original character, a young girl named Liyana. The world that they imagine is brought to life in the film in a unique style of animation. Drawing from painful memories, the children describe a violent attack at Liyana’s home. In the aftermath of this terrible night, Liyana must embark on a dangerous quest into the wilderness. Profound insight is revealed as the children shape their heroine’s mythic journey, and parallels are drawn between Liyana’s fate, and that of the young storytellers.
Liyana aims to encourage young people to make their voices heard, and to unite their communities as they look for world-changing solutions within themselves.
Co-Director Aaron Kopp grew up in Swaziland and had been looking for a way to do a film with the children at this orphan home as he and Amanda have traveled back and forth between the United States and Swaziland during the last 13 years.
When they began filming, the filmmakers reached out to prominent South African activist and storyteller Gcina Mhlophe who immediately joined the project.
This is the first feature for Aaron and Amanda as directors though they both have significant experience working as co-producers and cinematographers on such films as the Oscar®-winning documentary Saving Face and the recent Sundance film The Hunting Ground.
Other team members include Oscar® winner Daniel Junge as a producer and editor Davis Coombe who has edited Emmy®- and Oscar®-winning documentaries, including Saving Face and Chasing Ice. British/Zimbabwean actress Thandie Newton (Crash, Mission Impossible II, The Slap) has also joined the project as Executive Producer.
“As filmmakers, we’ve been fans of Shine Global’s films for years. Meeting Susan MacLaury and Alexandra Blaney it was immediately clear to us that our hearts and goals aligned,” said Amanda Kopp. “We knew it would be a perfect fit, and we are honored to work with Shine.”
Ultimately the filmmakers’ goal is to use the power of storytelling to dispel misconceptions about vulnerable African populations from the outside, as well as improve the confidence in their own potential to help others and to make the world a better place. This shift in perspective will also apply to key players in the NGO world as they examine their own practices and help to increase respect and reduce stigma about the people they serve.
“We immediately fell in love with this project,” says Shine’s Executive Director Susan MacLaury. “The focus on the transformational power of storytelling for these children is a clear fit with our mission. Combine that with the beautiful cinematography and outstanding animation from rising talent Shofela Coker and we couldn’t wait to be involved.”
Liyana is currently in post-production.
Aaron Kopp – Co-director, Producer, Cinematographer
Aaron Kopp is an award-winning filmmaker and Emmy-nominated cinematographer who grew up in Swaziland. Kopp shot and co-produced the Oscar-winning documentary about acid attacks in Pakistan, Saving Face. He was also cinematographer for the Sundance 2015 premiered film, The Hunting Ground, about sexual assault on college campuses. For his short film, Likhaya, he was awarded People’s Choice and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. He has worked on films around the world for HBO, National Geographic, Discovery, UK Channel 4, CBS, CNN, and PBS. Kopp was awarded grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doha Film Institute for his upcoming feature directorial debut, Liyana.
Amanda Kopp – Co-director, Producer, Camera
Amanda Kopp is an award-winning photographer and artist. She was producer and cinematographer for the short film Likhaya, which won a Golden Palm, People’s Choice, and Best Documentary awards at international festivals. She also filmed for the Sundance 2015 premiered film, The Hunting Ground. Kopp’s photographic work has been published in the UK, US, Sweden, Germany, Russia, Pakistan, and Italy. Her photographs won the Grand Prize in the Photo District News Top Knots photography competition. She has traveled to Swaziland regularly over the past 13 years and is now directing her first feature length documentary, Liyana, with funds from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doha Film Institute.
About Shine Global
Shine Global, a non-profit media company, gives voice to children by telling stories of their resilience to raise awareness, promote action, and inspire change. The organization’s films have won more than 50 major awards including an Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject for Inocente and an Academy Award®-nomination for War/Dance. Shine Global is attached the 2016 Sundance hit The Eagle Huntress while its most recent production, The Wrong Light, recently premiered at the Cleveland Film Festival.