Rough Aunties (tbc)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner16/07/2010

Three out of Five stars
Running time: 103 mins

Kim Longinotto's documentary is at once powerfully inspirational and emotionally devastating, though it lacks focus in places and there are some questionable filmmaking choices.

What's it all about?
Directed by Kim Longinotto, Rough Aunties follows the women of the Bobbi Bear child welfare organisation in Durban, South Africa, who have dedicated their lives to protecting the rights of sexually abused children and, where possible, to bringing their abusers to justice.

Throughout the film, which was shot over a period of ten weeks, we meet the women of Bobbi Bear (notably founder Jackie Branfield, her rough-edged secretary Eureka and tireless worker Mildred) and sit in on a number of different cases, whether it's Mildred interviewing a young girl about her recent abuse (by getting her to indicate on a bear what her abuser did to her); bringing victims to the arrests of their assailants so they can identify them on the spot; surveying and then cleaning a horrific murder scene; awaiting the AIDS test results of a three-year-old abuse victim; or, in the film's tear-jerking climax, Jackie attempting to persuade her husband that they should adopt one of the abused girls.

The Good
Given such powerful subject matter, it's no surprise that the film is emotionally devastating throughout. The women (many of them former abuse victims themselves) are nothing less than astonishing (even if Jackie is a little in love with the sound of her own voice) and their mutually supportive relationships are genuinely moving.

The Bad
That said, some of Longinotto's directorial choices are extremely troubling - women doing the same job in the UK would be horrified at the fact that Longinotto brings her cameras into crucial first interviews, particularly an interview with a woman who has clear mental problems. Similarly, there is a deeply upsetting sequence where one of the Bobbi Bear co-workers (Sdudla) loses a son in a tragic accident and Longinotto's cameras stay with her for what seems like an eternity as she cries, before spending an equally lengthy amount of time on the boy's funeral service.

Worth seeing?
In short, this is a powerful documentary that is both inspirational and utterly devastating, begging the question of why anyone would voluntarily put themselves through that much misery. Worth seeing but be prepared to have your eyes opened to the evils of the world and bring several boxes of tissues.

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Content updated: 18/10/2017 06:48

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