As AIDS continues to rip through its population, South Africa has become a country of orphans. At the small Agape orphanage, founded by “Grandma” Zodwa Mqadi, are several members of the Moya family. Music is an integral part of the curriculum at the orphanage. For Slidile Moya and her siblings, music unites, binding her biological family, her Agape family, and, soon — through the choir’s studio-made demo — a larger world community. It even holds together Paul Taylor’s crowd-pleasing HBO-bound inspirational docu, “We Are Together,” winner of audience awards at IDFA and Tribeca.
Docu follows the fortunes of the Moyas and the orphanage over a period of three years. Slidile’s outgoing nature and smiling relationship to the camera (as well as her choir solos and frequent voiceover comments) proclaim her as the docu’s de facto center. Credited by helmer Taylor as co-writer, she also serves as the story link between Agape and her nearby family home, where her older siblings still live, her older brother Sifiso in ill health.
As the Moyas fight to keep their brother alive, carting him to the regional clinic and hoping against hope that he has not fallen victim to the same pandemic that killed their mother, Grandma Zodwa contacts overseas organizations to seek help to expand Agape so it can admit more of the hundreds of local orphans whose ranks swell daily.
Both the Moyas’ personal woes and Agape’s administrative situation soon worsen. Having confirmed Sifiso is HIV positive, the clinic kicks him out: They are not equipped with the necessary drugs to help him.
Meanwhile, a series of misfortunes threatens the orphanage’s existence: The choir’s promised, long-rehearsed fund-raising trip to the U.K. falls through, and an electrical fire engulfs the compound.
But “We Are Together” stands as a celebration of resiliency. Sifiso’s serene acceptance of his fate, chiming in from his sickbed to correct the harmony as the vocally gifted family continues to sing together, turns even his funeral into a glorious chorale. And Agape’s misfortunes only herald bigger blessings.
Taylor contrasts the natural beauty surrounding the Moya home, which seems an organic part of the mountainous landscape, with the flat functionality of the orphanage.
First-time helmer Taylor has surrounded himself with a seasoned crew, and the result is highly competent, if rarely challenging. As a film, “Together” rates as one hell of a fund-raiser.