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Reality Check

Rough Aunties Add to ...

Cross these Aunties and they'll show you the rough side of their tongue, but when a child is in trouble, they'll do everything they can to help. Rough Aunties (Sunday, Dec. 6, 9 p.m. ET on TVO) is a feature-length documentary that follows the heartbreaking, inspiring work of Jackie, Mildred, Eureka, Sdudla, and Thuli in Durban, South Africa, who counsel children that have been raped, beaten or neglected. They work for a non-profit group called Bobbi Bear, which fights for children's rights and helps to convict the abusers, even tagging along on police raids to make sure the right man is caught. Finding justice in a Zulu "culture of silence," as one Auntie puts it, is difficult work. Particularly when children aren't allowed, or even given the words, to talk about their private parts. The women call themselves rough Aunties because what they see day in and day out has toughened them, yet they remain deeply empathetic. "Never stop crying for the children," Eureka tells the group after a particularly hard day. This is a tough film to watch, and after many festival screenings (and winning Sundance's world jury prize), it's airing on North American TV for the first time this week. Director Kim Longinotto follows them on the job in a part of the country where abuse appears to be rife. There's no voice-over; what could it say? The children's words, sometimes even just their faces, beggar description.

Also airing

A Lion Called Christian (Sunday, Dec. 6, 8 p.m. ET on Animal Planet) In sixties London, owning an exotic pet was legal and very chic. That's how two friends ended up buying a lion cub from Harrods and taking him home. Eventually they released him back into the wild in Kenya, and a year later filmed their joyous reunion in the savannah. This grainy clip from the seventies has been a hit on YouTube and this documentary goes "behind the clip" to interview everyone involved with the story - from the Harrods store clerk to the friends' brave cleaning lady who worked around the rambunctious cub. Home movies from the time are priceless, and the story is unforgettable.

Catherine Dawson March

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