As we roll into cinema’s second century, the filmmakers’ toolbox overflows with an ever-expanding array of effects wizardry and stylistic innovations. But 100 years later, the most effective storytelling tool remains the same: powerful characters in action. Kim Longinotto embodies this as well as any filmmaker today. Working under the tenets of cinema verité — a purist form of documentary that eschews interviews, voiceover and recreations — the British filmmaker has recorded a series of remarkable real people and shared their struggles and triumphs with us. Forget reality TV: this is real life, captured with love and patience, organized with integrity and presented to the world as testimony, inspiration and surprisingly rich entertainment. Longinotto’s career began more than 30 years ago with the acclaimed student film Pride of Place, which looked scathingly at her former boarding school. Already, her formal and thematic approaches were on display. Her unobtrusive camera (she shoots her own films) captures telling detail. Cinematic flourishes are kept to a minimum. And her stories make visible society’s forgotten, whether it be transgendered Japanese women, Iranian divorcees, would-be pro wrestlers or a forcibly circumcised Kenyan girl. In the face of Hollywood’s false hundred-million-dollar heroes, Longinotto gives us real ones living rousing, inspiring lives. In Sisters in Law, two women seize control of the legal system in a Cameroon township. Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go quietly honors a group of teachers coping with out-of-control children. And for Rough Aunties, Longinotto took her expressive camera into a South African NGO that protects kids from abuse. Who needs Iron Man? These women are doing the kind of work that will really save the world. With the unwavering, insightful camera and tireless efforts, Longinotto might be, too.