East Tennessee State University held a screening of ‘Liyana,’ a unique film that’s a blend of documentary and fictional animation. This film was the brainchild of Aaron Kopp, a native of Swaziland and his wife Amanda Kopp, a photographer and visual artist.

The film follows the real lives of five orphaned children from Swaziland who create the story of Liyana, a pre-teen girl from Swaziland who loses her parents to AIDS and travels across the country. Liyana encounters crocodiles, mangoes, sunsets and wildernesss all of which are animated by Nigerian artist Shofela Coker.

The film covers some tough themes such as death, AIDS, poverty and life as an orphan. Yet, it manages to present an uplifting story of creativity and hope that even includes some moments of humor.

The screening was followed by a Q&A with Aaron and Amanda Kopp who spoke fondly of the tough yet rewarding process of making this film.

“This project took over 8 years of work to complete but it was really a love letter to my childhood in Swaziland,” said Aaron.

Amanda noted that the collaboration with the kids was one of the most rewarding parts of the whole project.

“The kids were really amazing story-tellers and truly brought Liyana to life,” said Amanda.

Aaron and Amanda’s hard work and collaboration with these five children and Shofela Coker was rewarded when they won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary at the L.A. Film Festival, the Jury Award for Artistic Bravery at the Durban International Film Festival and the Grand Prize for Documentary Feature at the Heartland Film Festival.

The film was screened as part of the Southern Circuit Tour of Independent Filmmakers which are funded by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

To learn more about the film visit www.liyanathemovie.com and to learn about upcoming events with the ETSU Mary B. Martin School of the Arts visit www.etsu.edu/martin.