Parents' Guide to


By Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 11+

Inspiring, unique film tells two stories of perseverance.

Movie NR 2018 76 minutes
Liyana Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 9+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 8+

What a powerful movie

We were on a school trip to see Liyana and the kids loved it and we loved it ! Powerful messages , awesome narration and a wow format with animation and real life merging together creating a story not to forget !. See it now , grab it now !

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models
age 9+

loved it

Your kids should watch it.

This title has:

Great messages
Great role models

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (1):

This unique film is a powerful, inspiring, innovative, and beautiful way to reveal how some pretty resilient children are coping with hardship and ugliness they've experienced. Directors Aaron and Amanda Kopp use an engrossing tactic to keep the film from being relentlessly tragic: Five children growing up in a Swaziland (now known as eSwatini) orphanage work together to write a fairy tale, with their teacher advising the camera crew that the kids will naturally put their own experiences into the story. Viewers may likely feel a pit in their stomach as these enthusiastic, imaginative children don't bat an eye at incorporating elements of child abuse, philandering alcoholic fathers, the spread of HIV, and armed men who steal children from their beds in the middle of the night.

The five children are wholly engaging and appealing: They're precocious, animated, and sweet -- it's impossible not to fall in love. They smile with pride as they tell the story they've imagined, all accompanied by sublime illustrations. And while their tale is captivating, it's also more than that: It's inspirational to the young authors themselves. The most magnificent moment in the film is when the children acknowledge that there's no reason to hope that life will get better ... and yet, in those beaming faces, you know hope is alive.

Movie Details

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate