Clemency Burtonhill

Clemency suggests | 26 January 2008

FILM

One of the most remarkable things about Africa is how rare it is to see Africans cry. You meet so many human beings there who are forced to endure the most unthinkable, unconscionable poverty, disease and neglect; and yet invariably they do so with a smile so big and true it breaks your heart. How, you wonder, do people literally grin and bear such horror? Among the many things that makes Paul Taylor’s documentary We Are Together so moving, therefore, is its observation of African grief. Don’t get me wrong, there are laughs galore and plenty to smile about in this uplifting tale of a group of AIDS orphans who live at a school called Agape in a village in KwaZulu Natal, and who are hoping to come to England for a singing tour – the music itself is enough to make the soul soar. But the unflinching, unsentimental documentation of how a family of children – already orphaned by AIDS – now deal with the death of their beloved brother Sifiso from the same disease, is quite devastating. “Remember”, says one sister, displaying an incredible sense of human empathy as she comforts her wailing younger sibling. “We are not the only ones going through this.” Indeed. It is estimated there are more than 1.2 million AIDS orphans in South Africa alone.

Taylor first came across the Moya family when volunteering at Agape in 2003. “Profoundly affected” by his experiences, he returned in 2004 with producer Teddy Leifer and they shot the film over the next three years; picking up, along the way, the support of (Red), the company launched by Bono in 2006 to harness profits from the private sector into the Global Fund, and EMI, who have released a brilliant not-for-profit CD album of the music from the film.

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