Angels in the Dust (2007)
Erhardt, Erwin F., Film & History
Angels in the Dust (2007)
Directed by Louise Hogarth
Distributed by Cinemalibre Studios
Winner of numerous awards, including the Special Jury Prize for Best Documentary, at the 2007 Seattle International Film Festival, Angels in the Dust chronicles the plight of South African children whose lives have become collateral damage of the AIDS crisis, orphaned at an early age because of the death of their parents and extended family members from HIV/ AIDS. Produced by Louise Hogarth, who also co-produced the 1 994 Academy Award- winning documentary film, The Panama Deception, the film is a two hour- plus journey into the life of Marion Cloete and the orphanage she and her family established in Boikarabelo to care for South African children, who were, or were about to be, orphaned.
The film opens with a grim image and a parable: We see hunters in helicopters killing adult elephants, leaving their young without "mums and dads." When the young elephants are removed from the wild, for protection and care, it is discovered that they cry at night. And as they continue to grow without parental guidance, they exhibit socialization problems, both within their cohort and with other species. A decision is made to reintroduce adult elephants with the young elephants, in the hope that the adults will teach and guide them, and indeed, the plan works. The message this narrative imparts serves as model for another orphan story in search of a happy ending - the story of a woman working with human orphans - the story of Marion Cloete.
Cloete, a trained therapist, moved with her husband, Con, and two daughters to Moyaliesberg 19 years ago, using all their savings to open a school and orphanage. The sign in front of their facility reads "Botshadbeo: A Child's Sanctuary." Here Marion and her family raise and care for over 500 children of the region, most of whom have been orphaned, and are, here, reintroduced to a "family" setting, with Marion serving as the matriarch, nurturer, care-provider, and counselor for all of the children. Not only are the young ones provided for in a psychological sense, but they are taught the values, norms, and behaviors of everyday family life - a life structured by a pattern of family meals, school, recreation time, and chores - which will enable them to function, one day, in families of their own. Cloete also brings a strong spiritual dimension to her work with the children, seeing hope and faith as critical elements in the process of "rehabilitation." This focus is integrated into the context of the film with careful and skilled timing and exposition, and generally avoids slipping into didacticism.
There are many storylines within the film itself, introducing the viewer to village life, and the stories of several young girls, in an effort to illustrate why the Cloete facility was so desperately needed. The girls' tragic, but typical, lives include stories of starvation, neglect, abuse, rape, incest, and prostitution, often becoming tools in their parents' desperate struggles for survival. …