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September 2007
An Interview with Director Louise Hogarth

An Interview with Director Louise Hogarth

By Stacey Chapman

September 21, 2007

Black people in South Africa are suffering and dying from HIV/AIDS. According to ANGELS IN THE Dust’s statistics, by the year 2010, 100 million people from Sub-Saharan Africa will be infected with the disease and 40 million young people will be orphaned as a consequence of the virus. Similarly, entire legacies of African families continue to vanish, social structures perish, and a country is in denial as it battles cataclysmic beliefs involving virgins.

With purpose and steady determination in her voice, Documentary Academy Award® winner (The Panama Deception) and director, Louise Hogarth, talks to blackfilm.com about the above tragedies in her film ANGELS IN THE DUST. Subjects so raw, powerful and sinister, that the devastating atrocities can only be digested through the hopeful stories of the Cloete family who operates the Boikarabelo orphanage, the place where these small innocent children call home.

How did you get involved with the making of this film?

Louise Hogarth: Friends of mine told me about this orphanage. At the same time, people were extremely concerned with the rape of very young girls. Men think if they have sex with a virgin it will cure them of HIV. A belief that occurred in the United States and all over Europe in the early 1930’s, which originated with syphilis and gonorrhea. However, I couldn’t make a documentary about that because people wouldn’t want to see it. So, I went and talked to friends of mine and they told me to talk to the Cloete family and I was immediately captivated by the work Marion was doing. Not only was she taking children in, but she was working to break the cycle of victimhood.

What were the challenges of filming in South Africa and how is it different from filming in the United States?

Louise Hogarth: It is dangerous in South Africa, but I wasn’t doing a lot of traveling so it wasn’t that dangerous for me. I stayed near the orphanage. I stayed focused by following people around and asking the right questions.

What was your first impression of the Cloete family?

Louise Hogarth: I think they gave up a lot. I don’t think I could do it with the living conditions of not having a toilet, living in a warehouse with no privacy, also dealing with so many emotions. There are a lot of needy children that take up a lot time. On the other hand, I was captivated with the love that I found. Clearly, they made a choice to give up materialism for a spiritual life and I think we in the west can learn a lot from this family.

When was your defining moment to investigate HIV in Africa?

Louise Hogarth: Well, I didn’t have a defining moment because my last documentary dealt with HIV/AIDS and it was called THE GIFT. It dealt with the subject of prevention and how it failed. To give an illustration, a group of gay HIV positive men would gift the disease to men who were HIV negative. I found the same messages in South Africa. South Africa’s methods of prevention are exactly the same as the United State’s methods. I feel that we can revamp the messages of prevention. We do this by breaking the cycle of the victims’ perpetrators.

Do you have any conspiracy theories on the spread of HIV and why it’s so rampant among certain groups/demographics of Africans?

Louise Hogarth: I wonder if this disease is an accident. It’s affecting all Africans, but I believe it is a man made disease.

Do you think there is a single solution that will stop the spread of HIV?

Louise Hogarth: I think it’s about personal responsibility.

It’s great that this family takes in young children. What happens to them once they become teenagers?

Louise Hogarth: The unemployment rate is huge. In some areas it’s over 70%. The movie has generated some revenue for the orphanage. They are trying to go into different industries for the people who live there. They have a fishing industry. They are trying to go into tourism. They’re trying to take the next step to prepare the kids. I myself, as a filmmaker, have taken the next step. I started a bracelet campaign (HYPERLINK "http://www.participate.net"www.participate.net); the money goes directly to the Eastern Cape women who make the bracelets so they can take care of their children. The rest of the money goes into programs that are not funded.

How many hours of footage did you get?

140 hours.

How did you determine what to put in the film?

That was really difficult because there were a lot of kids’ stories that I would have liked to include. I would have even liked to expound on the elephant story. (ANGELS IN THE DUST briefly explored the cruel realities of elephant poaching in the animal kingdom.) Americans don’t want to be distressed. I understand that. I tried to make a film that was joyful as well as informative and make people want to do something. So, I chose elements from the story in order to do that.

Can you expand on the correlation between the elephants and the orphanage?

Louise Hogarth: Scientists discovered that elephants develop bonds the same way people do. Hunters would kill the elephant parents and shackle the babies to their dying mothers. After the parents died, these elephants were let loose in the wild to defend for themselves. When they grew up ten years later, as teenagers, they went wild. They raped rhinos, they killed rhinos. They overturned cars. They attacked tourists and exhibited very unlike elephant behavior. The park gathered them and the elephants didn’t know how to love or behave. So, park rangers brought adult female elephants in to cure the teenage elephants and that straightened them out. My question is what is South Africa going to do with millions of children if nobody looks out for them? They need to be parented, they need to be loved.

ANGELS IN THE DUST opens on September 14, 2007


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