Countries: United Kindom/Cameroon
Directors: Kim Longinotto, Florence Ayisi
Topic: An unobtrusive portrait of prosecutor Vera Ngassa and judge Beatrice Ntuba, who oversee three cases in a small town in Cameroon: a Muslim woman seeking to divorce her abusive husband; a woman accused of beating her niece with a coat hanger; and the rape of a prepubescent girl. Their honesty and dedication to resolving the disputes of ordinary people in fair ways results in the nation’s first convictions for spousal abuse.
Financing: In full by the U.K.’s Channel 4
Shooting format: Super 16
Why it stands out: This upbeat and very watchable film was described by Variety’s reviewer as an “African ‘Judge Judy’ with a more important caseload.”
Memorable scene: The woman who beat her niece is made to apologize to the child, whose body is covered with scars. The woman breaks into tears and falls to her knees as she asks the child for forgiveness. She eventually pleads guilty to all charges.
Distribution status: Women Make Movies released the film in the U.S. April 12 — it’s taken in about $33,000 so far. It’s about to air on Channel 4 in the U.K.
On the making of the film: Originally intended to make her film about an older female judge, Longinotto had to start over after her footage was fogged by airport X-ray machines. She decided to make the film about Ngassa and Ntuba instead. “I remember when we went to see (Ntuba) and say, ‘Oh, we’ve lost all our footage, and we got to know you and could we make the film with you?’ Instead of there being negotiations, she just kind of looked very lovingly at us and said, ‘Well, you’d better start straight away.’ “