Saturday, May 8, 2010

Sisters in Law

This five-year-old film was part of the Hot Docs special tribute to filmmaker Kim Longinotto.

Sisters in Law takes place in the little town of Kumba in Cameroon. There have been no convictions for spousal abuse in 17 years, but that is about to change. The films focuses on a few cases undertaken by the feisty prosecutor Vera and court president Beatrice. This is, to say the least, relatively informal justice - no CSI teams rushing in with forensic evidence, or defence lawyers challenging points of law. Simply presentation of the case in pretty simple and direct terms, and a ruling by the judge.

In the course of the movie, we see a husband convicted for beating his wife. Subsequently, the woman, who wants to divorce her husband, faces the arguably tougher Sharia court requesting divorce. To her joy - and surprise - she is granted the divorce.

In another case, a father is convicted of kidnapping a child from its mother. His claim which seemed to revolve around ownership of a chattel didn't hold water with the judge!

A third case saw a man convicted of raping a young girl and a fourth involved an aunt physically beating a girl she took in after the death of her parents. In each case, the prosecutor is willing to take on cases against the powerful in protection of the weak, and the judge follows through with common sense decisions.

Longinotto, in the Q&A, indicated that she and her mother had both been beaten by an abusive father/husband, and this led to her interest in the disadvantaged, which is a persistent theme in her work over the years. She is a much-awarded film-maker, including her film Rough Aunties winning at Hot Docs last year. This is another film I recommend.

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