Angels in Exile — a documentary depicting houseless life for children in Durban, South Africa — was screened in Pollock Theater last night, providing students and other attendees with a unique look at the personal experiences facing these children.
In the film, Director Billy Raftery and Producer Adam Paul Smith follow two children, Zulieka and Ariel, as they struggle to rise above the drugs, violence and prostitution that life on the streets pushes into their daily lives. With narration by Oscar-winning South African actress Charlize Theron, the film made its debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and is now providing much insight into the otherwise untold story of these children.
Inspired by his own experiences visiting Durban, Raftery said the inhumane conditions facing children in these areas were tragic and disturbing, thus motivating him to make a film depicting their existence.
“In my film, I wanted to capture their lifestyle in a way that would portray the reality of the issues and injustices that children face on a daily basis,” Raftery said. “What was crazier to me was that it was readily accepted.”
In response to the horrors he witnessed on his trip, Raftery moved to South Africa and started the Children Rise Foundation — a nonprofit organization designed to allow former street children to help the currently homeless children. According to Raftery, the Angels in Exile project was set in motion by the Children’s Rise Foundation and was initially intended to aid the organization in educating others on the tragedies that face the children of Durban.
“I felt compelled to show my privileged country the harshness of the lives of these children,” Raftery said. “It’s a chance to see a stigmatized and outcast group overcome the harsh reality that they live in.”
In addition to the thievery and violence that plague the streets of Durban, a large amount of homeless children suffer from serious glue-huffing addictions, according to Smith. As a form of inhalant abuse, glue huffing can cause dependency, irreversible brain, lung and heart damage while delivering hallucinations and feelings of euphoria. Smith said, however, there are currently programs in place that provide athletic escapes for the children, such as surfing lessons.
“A huge part of what keeps the kids on the street is their addiction to glue,” Smith said. “They’re not going to use as much or cut it out completely if they have another outlet.”
Shane Lee, second-year communication major, said the film highlighted the prevalence of child poverty in countries like South Africa, acting as a wake-up call for him and other students.
“It changed my perspective. It’s just so much different than what I’m used to, living here,” said Lee. “All the kids were showing their knife wounds. You could see the actual violence, the actual scarring, the actual dangers that the children were going through.”
-Tiffany Park contributed to this article.