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We Are Together

Documentary shows the joy, sadness and hope of an orphaned South African girl

By Jocelyn Bell

We Are Together
Directed by Paul Taylor
(RISE Films)

Music plays a major part in the culture of South Africa. “We South Africans sing before we sleep. We sing when we’re happy. We sing when we’re sad. It’s a healing thing,” one of the country’s pop stars tells us. No wonder then, that singing would be the outlet of choice for a group of orphans living at the Agape children’s home.

The documentary We Are Together focuses on a 12-year-old girl named Slindile Moya, who was placed at Agape along with four of her siblings after their parents died. An older brother and two sisters still live at the family home, but cannot afford to care for the little ones.

The film goes back and forth between two storylines. At the orphanage, Slindile is part of the Agape children’s choir, which is preparing for a fundraising tour abroad. At the family homestead, death is never far from mind — the memory of her parents is ever present, and Slindile’s older brother is dying of AIDS.

Everywhere, there is singing: out of joy, out of sadness and out of hope. Sometimes they sing just to hold on to one another, as when the older and younger siblings reunite to sing We Are Together in both English and their native Zulu. Slindile’s pure and powerful voice and the harmonies that support it are enough to cause goose-bumps and throat lumps — especially as it becomes an emblem of courage against all odds.

As the older brother dies, it’s like Slindile is being orphaned all over again. The camera documents nearly every aspect of the experience, from the slow erosion of his body, to a description of his final moment, to the burial and its wailing mourners. At times it feels intrusive and difficult to watch. Then again, if Slindile has the courage to share her story, perhaps we can summon the courage to be stirred by it.

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