Nineteen years ago, Marion and Con Cloete walked away from a privileged life in Johannesburg and poured their life savings into an orphanage and school in a barren village. Today, as we see in Louise Hogarth's documentary, the Cloetes feed, clothe, educate, and board 250 children, along with another 280 day students from the surrounding areas. A shocking percentage of the kids have lost parents to AIDS or are infected themselves, often from being raped, the consequence of the stubborn belief in the myth that sleeping with a virgin will cure HIV. Angels takes an intimate, unstinting, ground's-eye view of the biological and social diseases ravaging Africa, making public-policy debate about AIDS in Africa seems distant and esoteric. No surprise that it's heartbreaking to hear the stories of prepubescent girls being raped and prostituted to their uncles, of babies kept in tiny crates like veal calves, and to watch a man dying of AIDS. Even the humor is grim, as when feisty, tireless Marion chats with her helpers about a promiscuous HIV-infected village man they dub "the serial killer." The tone of the gossip is no different from a street-corner conversation, except in this case, every single one of his former girlfriends has died. Though Hogarth illustrates the children's plight without being patronizing or salacious, the film lacks a narrative thread, and its 95 minutes feel overlong. (Note: Director Louise Hogarth will conduct Q&As following the Friday and Saturday evening screenings.)
Child rescuers Marion and Con Cloete.
Opens at Varsity, Fri., Sept. 28. Not rated. 95 minutes.