There's a new documentary film making its way around the festival circuit, and if it happens to arrive in your hometown, you do not want to miss the opportunity to see it. Angels in the Dust, from award-winning director Louise Hogarth, is already generating well-deserved Oscar buzz for its wrenching, and heart-warming, look at the African AIDS crisis . . . through the eyes of children.
The Dazzling Hope of 'Angels'
Angels tells the story of Boikarabelo, a South African orphanage that is home to countless children living with HIV/AIDS. Many of these smallest victims of the African AIDS epidemic have been infected by someone they know. Some have been sold into sex slavery by their own parents. And all of them have an important lesson to teach us about living with dazzling dignity and hope, even in the face of unimaginable loss.
By the year 2010, 100 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa will be infected with HIV/AIDS, and 26 million children will be orphaned as a result of the virus. In South Africa alone, six million adults and children are infected. Many of the children living with the disease have been brutally raped because of an African myth, rooted in the continent's folklore, that sexual intercourse with a virgin can purify the blood. Despite public education campaigns to the contrary, the myth persists, and the children keep dying, day after day.
Angels revolves around the story of Marion Cloete, a white woman from a privileged background who gave up most of her comforts in life to care for South Africa's AIDS orphans. Marion gives the children at Boikarabelo a safe home, warm hugs and a chance to re-gain their dignity and fight for their lives. The result is a startling lesson in what any one person can accomplish if they never aim short of changing the whole world.
Hogarth, whose last film, The Gift, sparked a firestorm of controversy because of its blunt story about a young gay man seeking to become infected with HIV, has an uncanny ability to ignite international debate through powerful documentaries that refuse to turn away from the hard truth about their subjects. One can only hope that Angels will do the same, and shine a bright light on the unforgettable plight of South Africa's children, who are waiting for someone to take notice.
Given the courage and tenacity they each show, just by fighting to live, it is the least the world can do. We all have much to learn from Angels.