Sisters In Law

More gripping than anything on Court TV and unexpectedly uplifting, British documentarian Kim Longinotto's film chronicles the efforts of two legal eagles to improve the lives of abused women and children in Cameroon. Longinotto's unobtrusive camera follows state prosecutor Vera Ngassa and court president Beatrice Ntuba as they prosecute three individual...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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More gripping than anything on Court TV and unexpectedly uplifting, British documentarian Kim Longinotto's film chronicles the efforts of two legal eagles to improve the lives of abused women and children in Cameroon. Longinotto's unobtrusive camera follows state prosecutor Vera Ngassa and court president Beatrice Ntuba as they prosecute three individual cases from their cramped and paper-filled offices in Kumba Town. A Muslim woman named Amina has fled the home of her abusive — and considerably older — husband, with whom she has children; not only does she want him prosecuted for spousal abuse, but she also wants a divorce. Ten-year-old Sonita, who was rushed to the hospital by her father after she came home covered in blood, accuses a 26-year-old Nigerian neighbor of luring her into his home and raping her; the neighbor denies any wrongdoing, claiming that it was she who tried to seduce him while he was innocently studying his Bible; it's the word of a 10-year-old against his. In a third and equally disturbing case, 6-year-old Manka is brought before Ms. Ngassa by one of the parishioners of the Presbyterian church after she wanders into a pew during a service. Scars covering her legs and back and blood in her eye testify to the terrible beatings she says were inflicted by her aunt, Manka's guardian since her mother's death. For Ngassa and Ntuba, enforcing Cameroon's laws often means going against the grain — not only of Islamic and tribal law, but also of centuries-old mores that keep women and children subjugated and without recourse. Ngassa, Ntuba and their colleagues have their work cut out for them, but they're tireless, fearless and clearly up to the task. Ngassa in particular is one tough cookie, as harsh with miscreants as she is supportive of her clients. The absence of voice-over narration lends the film a feeling of immediacy, but denies the viewer background information about these fascinating women. Who are they? How and when did they become lawyers? Like Longinotto's excellent DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE, which dispelled preconceived notions of Muslim women in Tehran as they attempted to divorce their husbands, this film also presents quite a different view of Cameroonian society than many might otherwise expect. Thanks to women like Ngassa and Ntuba, life in Kumba Town appears healthy, vibrant and moving progressively toward the future.

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  • Released: 2006
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: More gripping than anything on Court TV and unexpectedly uplifting, British documentarian Kim Longinotto's film chronicles the efforts of two legal eagles to improve the lives of abused women and children in Cameroon. Longinotto's unobtrusive camera follow… (more)

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