We spoke with director Louise Hogarth about her new movie ANGELS IN THE DUST, the inspiring story of Marion Cloete, a university-trained therapist who fearlessly walked away from a privileged life in a wealthy Johannesburg suburb to establish an extraordinary village and school that provide shelter, food, and education to more than 550 South African children. Check out the interview below to read her passionate take on the making of her film, the AIDS crisis in Africa and why you should come see the film!
ANGELS IN THE DUST opens Friday, September 14 @ the Village East Cinema…Make sure to attend the opening night shows for a Q & A with Louise and Terri Ford of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation!
AngelikaFilmCenter: Why do you think people should come out to see Angels in the Dust?
Louise Hogarth: ANGELS shows that one person can make a powerful difference. Marion is an inspiration to every human being who meets her and takes a few steps of her journey. Marion demonstrates that all of us can make a difference —- in Marion’s words she works — one child at a time.
I have lost count of how many times people have told me that their own lives have been transformed by seeing my film. As the filmmaker I am deeply gratified that, the audience is inspired to make a difference, in their own lives.
People should be aware of the global orphan AIDS crisis and how they can get involved, even in a small way, to help some of these children. However, this film is not only about the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the millions of orphans left with no one to look after them.
Yes, this question needs to be addressed but it’s also about living in today’s world feeling disenfranchised and cynical. In spite of the subject matter, ANGELS is uplifting and inspirational — a primer for those of us who have been losing hope. This film reinforces the idea that every one of us can make a difference.
AFC: How long did it take to acquire the footage for the film?
LH: My first shoot was in 2004, I did two more shoots in 2005 and one shoot in 2006, all self funded. Participant Productions funded in August 2006. I returned to SA for the last shoot in 2006 and finished post in 2007.
AFC: What inspired you to make the film and to get involved with the African AIDS epidemic?
LH: Before deciding to make this documentary, I heard many stories about rape in South Africa but the most disturbing were the stories of infant rape. One weekend I was in Cape town, South Africa and nine infant baby rapes were reported at the Children’s Hospital. The reports made me very angry, but rather than getting stuck in the problems, I decided to look for possible solutions. Then I found the Botshabelo orphanage. My film centers on the founder of the orphanage and its matriarch, Marion Cloete, a very compelling, charismatic woman. It is true my film is about the grim realities of orphans and rape, but it also deals with much larger issues to which we in the west can relate, especially the question, What am I doing in my life to benefit humanity?
AFC: Did any one of the children’s stories touch you in particular? Were you able to get to know any of the families or the children on a personal level?
LH: You cannot help being touched and moved by these children’s stories. These stories are not just African stories — their stories are happening all over the world.
AFC: How did you find Marion and hook up with her for this project? How did you find out about her center in South Africa?
LH: I live in SA part of the year and a friend of mine told me about Marion and what she was doing. I drove out to meet her and was very impressed and captivated by her work. I try to show different kinds of heroes. The Cloete family demonstrate courage, forgiveness and a tolerance and a love of humanity I have never, ever encountered anywhere. This is the story of a family choosing the spiritual world over the material and the rich benefits accrued from a choice made out of love.
Marion didn’t initially want to do a documentary, didn’t want to be on camera; she was very reluctant. She just wanted to do her work. Thankfully, the children told her that they wanted to tell their stories — from that moment Angels in the Dust was born.
AFC: Will you be returning there anytime soon? Do you plan on following up on any of the stories featured in the film?
LH: Yes, whenever I am in South Africa, I definitely check in on the children to see how they are progressing. I was there in July 2007, it was wonderful to see the impact, and the different donations, generated by the promo, have made in their lives. Through these donations, they have a developed a fish farm and the protein is making a wonderful addition to their diet.
AFC: What message do you want audiences to come away with after seeing the film?
LH: I hope every person seeing the film leaves the theater asking the question — how can I, in my daily life, contribute to making the world a better place?
AFC: How can people help your cause?
LH: They can buy a UBUNTU Bracelet.
Ubuntu comes from the Nguni word meaning a deeper understanding of what being human is all about, in other words, do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.
The bracelet provides a vehicle for people to give and help alleviate some of the misery engulfing millions of children around the world as well as provide income for women and mothers in desperate need of support.
I am hoping the Ubuntu Bracelet will give the Orphan AIDS crisis the same visibility as the Lance Armstrong band gave Cancer. Unlike the Armstrong band, the UB is handmade and provides sustainable income for people who are chronically unemployed. This project not only allows them dignity from earning a living wage but also helps them stay healthy and stay alive. After spending the last three months in the Eastern Cape (70% unemployment) and seeing the incredible difference a salary makes to these impoverished women, I am determined to continue my efforts to market these bracelets as a tangible symbol of this enormous crisis.
I have two groups working; both infected with HIV/AIDS, both very poor. I am determined to continue my efforts on behalf of these woman and their children.
AFC: What other projects can we look forward to from you in the future?
LH: I am in production shooting a documentary about gays in the military and writing a feature script where the story of the film takes place in South Africa.