WE ARE TOGETHER tells the moving and inspiring story of 12 year old Slindile and her remarkable friends at the Agape orphanage in South Africa. Filmed over three years, with unforgettable kids, soaring music and a plot full of surprises, WE ARE TOGETHER arrives as a stirring and uplifting theatrical documentary. Written by
A beautiful, moving and challenging film with great subjects and editing
Slindile is a twelve year old orphan living with some of her brothers and sisters in the Agape orphanage in South Africa. The other siblings still live in the family home but had to give up the younger ones when their parents died and they did not have the money to feed all of the children and look after them. She now lives at the orphanage along with many other children who have lost, or been abandoned by their parents. Over several years this film follows the lives of those in the orphanage, with particular focus on Slindile, as they live their lives and also prepare for a trip to England to perform in order to raise money for Agape.
I heard about this film on Shooting People and was pleased to see it get such publicity and a decent slot on terrestrial television recently. Watching it myself I must admit that the cynical bitter part of me (that'll be all the bits between the soles of my feet and my thinning hair) was prepared for the usual "African" fare of happy singing children, bright colours, bare feet and middle-class guilt. Forgive me this but on paper this is just what the film is but even those with hardest hearts will have to concede that the film is way more than just the clichés but is actually a challenging, uplifting and surprisingly hopeful film.
With any documentary, the real work comes in getting the right subjects particularly when you are making a film focused on a small group to illustrate a bigger story. Films can fall over by picking the wrong group or by focusing on the wrong people in a group, some of it is in the selection and maybe it can come in the edit if you have enough footage. Director Taylor doesn't really have this problem as he already knew his subjects from his time volunteering in a break from film school. He has already chosen his subjects and for him this is half the battle. That his subjects allow him to capture tragedy and loss as much as hope and happiness is down to them but it is all captured and brought together really well in the edit. The film wisely doesn't dwell on the issue of AIDS but rather just lets us see, through Slindile and her family, how it impacts just one family the extrapolation of that it leaves to us to do from what we already know of the situation and the basic stats it provides at the end.
It is compelling in both the sadness of it all but also the endless spirit of hope and survival that is maintained through everything. If I have a bad day at work I am useless in the evening, think how great about myself I felt watching this! Slindile is a great focal point because she is a beautiful girl but also one of those children who has their thoughts written on their face, the infectious smile is just another reason to love her. We see all this through her and she is a massive part in hooking the viewer into the reality of the situation this film is not another "black people dying somewhere else" reports that we see so often on the news that it is practically just accepted as the way things are. The rest of the kids are great too but again it is not just about "cute kids" (although Mbali is undoubtedly the cutest child ever) but also the adults, as the film gives time to the elder siblings whose lot is not much better but whose spirits are just as strong.
It is an impressive film from Taylor and really well pulled together by editor Hirakubo into an effective and engaging piece that gets the mix of emotions just right. Uplifting and challenging in equal measure if you are not asking what you can do to help or where you can donate by the end of the film then there is genuinely something wrong with you. Simply put - a beautiful and moving film. www.wearetogether.org.
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