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"Sisters in Law" in Minnesota

Posted at 8:03 AM on June 21, 2006 by Euan Kerr

Film can provide a special window on the world and a mirror too.

This weekend the Bell Auditorium in Minneapolis will present the Cannes-selected documentry "Sisters in Law." The movie follows Judge Beatrice Ntuba and Prosecutor Vera Ngassa as they hear cases in a town in their West African homeland of Cameroon.

It's a startling portrait of how determined legal advocacy, combined with education can make a huge difference the lives of all people.

Film makers Florence Ayisi and Kim Longinotto just follow the proceedings in a child abuse case, a rape case, and pair of spousal abuse cases brought by two women against their husbands. There is no narration: the victims, the accused, and the court officials talk with unnerving openness about what has happened.

The cases initially seem like small everyday issues, and it is only late in the film that it becomes apparent that the lawyers and judges are breaking new ground by pressing and winning such cases. These trials in small courtrooms in a small town are hugely significant.

Ntuba and Ngassa are in the Twin Cities to speak at the Minnesota African Women's Associations annual "African Women in the Diaspora" conference, and to speak at the Bell before the screenings on Friday and Saturday. It promises to be very interesting.

MPR's Elizabeth Stawicki will have a report on the movie for Thursday morning.

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