It isn’t often I find anything worth watching on Netflix these days. After they lost their license agreements with several studies and with them a vast quantity of quality movie content, all subscribers have been left with are TV reruns, made-for-TV movies and some documentaries. Every so often, though, you can stumble across something good, like “Angels in the Dust.”
This documentary, released in 2007, opens a window into the lives of orphans in South Africa, many of whom have lost parents to HIV and who themselves are infected. Con and Marion Cloete, a white South African couple, walked away from their well-off suburban lifestyle in the early 1990s to open a home for children on a farm. Their three daughters ended up joining them as well, forgoing a private-school education to attend the school run by their parents. As a family they continue working with children in need on the farm.
What originally provoked Marion, in particular, were the Apartheid-era laws that forced domestic workers from keeping their children with them in whites-only areas past 9 months of age. There was no exception under the law, even if the children had no one to care for them. Marion was further discouraged from pursuing a teaching degree when she discovered that the government required black students to receive an education inferior to that of white students.
In the post-Apartheid era Con and Marion have found their greatest battle to be against HIV/AIDS. This documentary features many children who are HIV positive and became so either through rape or because they were commercially sexually exploited by their parents. Many of the children have lost parents to HIV. Further, Marion’s struggle includes actually having to convince parents to allow her to take them in to the hospital to begin antiretroviral treatments and then pursue an education in her school. One would think this to be an easy decision for any loving parent, but extreme poverty, lack of education and superstition conspire to keep many children away from the care they most desperately need. A school-age child at home can help a mother with smaller children to take care of the home, and many people persist in their belief in natural remedies.
Con and Marion named their children’s home “Botshabelo,” which in Tswana means “place of refuge.”
This is a difficult documentary to watch in places, seeing children weeping for lost parents or facing death. It is a story that must be told, in any event, and I encourage everyone to watch it. You can either find it on Netflix, or watch it right here.