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Synopsis

Shot and directed by internationally acclaimed director Kim Longinotto (HBO's "The Day I'll Never Forget"), 'Rough Aunties' is set against the backdrop of a traumatized society marked by rampant abuse and little welfare structure. Believing "every child is our child," Thuli, Mildred, Sdudla, Eureka and Jackie, the members of Bobbi Bear, are unwavering in their determination to rescue and uphold the rights of abused children, minimize their risk of HIV infection, and help them towards wholeness.

These fearless, feisty and resolute women draw strength from each other in order to help the children, which in turn has transformed their own lives. "I used to be a proper lady, but now I'm a real rough auntie," says Eureka, an Afrikaaner, referring to the strength she needs to deal with rapists and molesters. She tells Thuli, who has also found her voice through Bobbi Bear, "When you first came, we couldn't get a peep out of you; now you've got the biggest mouth in Bobbi Bear."

The women of Bobbi Bear - named for a slain friend and for the teddy bears they give to the children they help - come from hardscrabble pasts of their own. Mildred, a Zulu woman, is a victim of abuse who is now trying to find the courage to leave her husband and live independently.

Amidst the challenges of life in post-apartheid South Africa, and through their solidarity, humor and resilience, the women of Bobbi Bear point to a future full of hope and potential, with women very much at the center of change. As the group's founder, Jackie, a white woman born and raised poor, says, "Are we just going to sit around and wait for the men to do it?"

Notes director Kim Longinotto, who first heard about Bobbi Bear in 2007, "Many of the people in the Zulu culture live in a culture of silence. It is my hope that the film helps to break this silence."

'Rough Aunties' is British-born Kim Longinotto's 14th directorial credit since 1976. Her films have won international acclaim and dozens of awards at festivals worldwide, including the Amnesty International DOEN Award at IDFA for "The Day I Will Never Forget," which premiered on HBO in 2003, and the Grand Prize for Best Documentary at the San Francisco International Film Festival and a BAFTA Award for "Divorce Iranian Style" (1998). "Sisters in Law," set in Kumba, Cameroon, premiered and won two prizes at Cannes, including the prestigious Prix Art et Essay Award, as well as a Peabody Award. Longinotto also won Outstanding Documentary at the San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival for "Shinjuku Boys" (1995).

HBO Documentary Films and Channel 4 presents a Women Make Movies release of a RISE Films and Vixen production; filmed & directed by Kim Longinotto; editor, Ollie Huddleston; assistant producer, Rebecca Lloyd Evans; executive producer, Peter Dale; producers, Teddy Leifer and Paul Taylor.

Woman holding child

Rough Aunties

May 19 on HBO2

Sundance Film Festival Award-Winner