We Are Together: Wincing Through Tears

A hackneyed doc on a heartbreaking subject

What's not to weep over in the latest documentary about the virulent spread of AIDS through the African continent? Film-school graduate Paul Taylor took a break volunteering at a Christian home—shack, more like it—for AIDS orphans in South Africa, and ended up making a film about it. Taylor is clearly a good guy, and he gives a moving account of the orphanage's travails and triumphs, as well as a portrait of one inhabitant, Slindile Moya, and what's left of her family after the disease killed their mother. Still, I'm a little queasy about an emergent strain of poor-Africa documentaries that double up as consciousness- and fundraising tools, if only because they tend to focus on pathos and sentimental uplift rather than the wholesale abandonment of these children by governments at home and abroad. Though Taylor doesn't mince words or images when it comes to the ravages of AIDS, his hook is the kids' formation into a choir that brings them to New York, where standing ovations from guilty liberals await. That Alicia Keys and Paul Simon, among other stars, got involved in funding the rebuilding of the orphanage after a fire is very nice, but a little beside the point, and giving Slindile, who is 12, a writing credit just made me wince.

 
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