SONG OF THE SOUL: STORIES OF HOSPICE IN SOUTH AFRICA Image

While the treatment of HIV and AIDs may no longer seem to be a priority in the U.S., it remains a significant healthcare catastrophe in South Africa.  When Janet S. Parrott arrived in South Africa in 2009 to shoot this profoundly moving documentary, an estimated 5.6 million people were living with HIV and AIDS.

Parrott’s film provides a glimpse of how that country’s urban and rural hospices are providing a lifeline for people who struggle to stay alive amid crushing poverty and a continuing social stigma against those with the disease. Yet the nurses, social workers and caregivers who work with the HIV/AIDS patients push on with an indefatigable spirit, and their force of energy empowers many people to find new courage and strength in dealing with their illness.

The film offers a surplus of tragic scenes, most notably during a visit with an elderly woman who has been forced to care for her six grandchildren because all of her children died from AIDS – she is in weak health and cries that she can barely keep her family together on her meager savings.

“Song of the Soul” also offers a sense of hope for a better future, thanks to the South African government’s acknowledgement (albeit belatedly) of the crisis and through improved education and a wider availability of antiretroviral drugs. Ultimately, Parrott’s remarkable production leaves the viewer with a sense of hope for a better tomorrow – indeed, it is hard to imagine how this situation could possibly get worse.

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