Angels in the Dust



Cinema Libre Studios

NEW YORK -- The AIDS epidemic in Africa, specifically the way it affects the region's children, is the subject of Louise Hogarth's moving documentary "Angels in the Dust." The film's heroine is Marion Cloete, a South African therapist who, along with her husband and two daughters, walked away from her privileged life in Johannesburg to establish a shelter for orphaned and infected South African children. Dubbed Boikarabelo, it provides a home, along with education, food and medical care, for more than 550 such victims.

The epidemic, which by some estimates will encompass 100 million infected people and 40 million orphaned children within the next few years, has many causes, including poverty, ignorance, governmental indifference and superstitions that help promote dangerous sexual practices.

Despite the inherent downbeat nature of the subject matter, the film is intensely inspiring in its depiction of Cloete's passionate caring for her village's residents and her determined and sometimes angry interactions with those who she feels are making matters worse. Although a bit unstructured and episodic, it evocatively conveys the bleakness of the situation and the hopefulness engendered by the sacrifices of those doing what they can to help.

Less effective is the film's interpolation of the story of South Africa's elephant population, now endangered thanks to the government's policy of killing off adult elephants to reduce herd sizes, thus apparently creating a population of maladjusted pachyderm orphans. Although its parallels to the main story line are obvious, it still feels like a needless digression.