SXSW Film

Interviews and reviews

SXSW Film

Sisters in Law

D: Kim Longinotto & Florence Ayisi

The festival brings us the second Cameroonian film to play Austin this month (the first was Les Saignantes, brought here by the Austin Film Society). These two films could not be more different. Les Saignantes presents a strange futuristic world in which women (Les Saignantes translates as the Bloodettes) exert innate power, whereas Sisters in Law is a documentary set in the small town of Kumba – a place where women's rights seem not to have progressed in the last couple thousand years, despite national laws to the contrary. Using a documentary approach favored by Frederick Wiseman in which institutions are observed in order to see how they function, Sisters in Law looks at the work of a cluster of progressive-minded women working at all levels of the judicial system, and particularly the work of Vera Ngassa, a prosecutor who obtains the country's first conviction for spousal abuse in 17 years. Despite some of the film's cultural detail being lost to foreign ignorance and the busy hand-held camerawork, the example set by the four cases the film follows will have you standing up and cheering for the law's ultimate ability to affect society for the good.

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