From a list penned by Richard Corliss, senior writer for Time magazine, highlighting 2011's best big screen performances, I was absolutely shocked to see these 2 names make the short list of 5 on the women's side: Ameena Matthews and Khomotso Manyaka.
Who are they you asked? We've written about them before, and the films both are in: first 13-year old Khomotso Manyaka (although she was likely 11 years old when the film was actually shot in 2009) who starred in the South African family drama Life, Above All, which I saw earlier this year and praised (MsWOO also saw it and was also impressed by it in her review). The young lady 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 depended 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!!
But she's certainly not showing up on any mainstream lists of strong performances… until now anyway. So kudos to Richard Corliss and Time magazine for the recognition. Khomotso deserves it.
Second is Ameena Matthews who was the heartbeat of Steve James' critically-acclaimed documentary The Interrupters, a film we've talked about maybe even more than Life, Above All. Although, I have a problem with Corliss calling Ameena's role in the film a "performance," which suggests she was acting, which wasn't the case. This is a documentary based on real-life subjects and events. Ameena is a real-life screen heroine as the film shows; courageous and inspirational as a violence interrupter with the Chicago organization CeaseFire, which mediates disputes to prevent gang violence from escalating. But I understand; Corliss is highlighting her efforts, which should be applauded, so I won't nitpick, but felt that I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that little detail.
As Corliss notes, the film didn't make the Academy's short list of nominees for Best Documentary, which many felt was snob.
But once again, kudos to Corliss and Time magazine for not going entirely with trends, and being unpredictable with their top 5s.
Granted Meryl Streep and the cast of The Help made the cut too; but Corliss could have certainly gone with some other favorites to fill out the rest of his top 5 list, and instead went with two *unknowns* – black *unknowns* too.
See Time magazine's top 5 performers (male and female) HERE.