Angels In The Dust

Angels In The Dust


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Like last year's audience-winning We Are Together - for which this film is a soulmate - Louise Hogarth's movie is, in essence, the story of the indomitable nature of the human spirit, the resilience and commitment of a few to help the many and a triumph of hope in adversity. It is also the story of an extended family who are constantly forced to welcome death to their table.

Like We Are Together, Angels In The Dust documents life in a South African orphanage, where many of the children find themselves parentless or soon to be so, thanks to the plague of HIV that is sweeping rural Africa. With pernicious myths that sleeping with a virgin will cure the disease abounding, even the youngest children often find themselves falling victims to rape. And if that sort of physical abuse isn't enough, there is also a suggestion that in broken families - some ravaged by the virus, others one suspects still suffering the fallout of years of forced separation during apartheid or faction fighting - mothers often find themselves prostituting their daughters for cash.

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The Botshabelo (now renamed Boikarabelo) orphanage itself - a settlement that is more a collection of villages than simply just a school - is run by the Cloete family. They, under the steerage of matriarch and motivator Marion - a trained therapist and long-time social activist - gave up their affluent life and large house in the suburbs of Johannesburg to devote themselves and their cash to looking after the children. They have only one rule: "Anybody who asks for help cannot be turned away."

But this isn't simply a case of taking care and educating them. Marion, her husband Con and daughters Nicole and Leigh (along with Shanna, although she isn't seen in the film) are also diplomats, strategists and staunch advocates for the children.

Hogarth captures the hustle and bustle of the orphanage, immersing us in the torrent of everyday life. Marion, is akin to a force of nature, by turns angry advocate - sorting out mums who won't let their kids come to school - and gentle therapist - using empowerment techniques to help the children help one another deal with their trauma. Though a staunch realist, her optimism and that of her family is infectious. Even when there are tears as another friend, one of so many, succumbs to AIDS, Marion helps the children steer a path through it.

The story - both uplifting and devastating - needs no set dressing, which is why Hogarth's decision to use local orphaned elephants as a sort of allegory for it, although by no means a bad parallel, feels cumbersome compared to the eloquent testimony elsewhere.

Although, largely an uplifting film, the sight of children's graves stretching off into the distance is a chilling one. And with 40 million children predicted to be orphaned by HIV/AIDs in South Africa by 2010, the shocking reality which drizzles down your neck as you watch the film is that these are but 500 or so souls, what about the rest? Those who want to help them - albeit from afar - could do a lot worse than check out and

Reviewed on: 17 Jun 2008
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Documentary about a wealthy, privileged family who build a community for children whose lives have been devastated by HIV/AIDS.

Read more Angels In The Dust reviews:

Chris ***

Director: Louise Hogarth

Writer: Louise Hogarth

Starring: Marion Cloete, Con Cloete

Year: 2007

Runtime: 95 minutes

Country: South Africa


EIFF 2008

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