ALL TOO often, we see poverty and hopelessness, and simply register them as head-shaking abstracts. Those little girls with runny noses or those hunched-over souls in lines for food, aren't real people somehow. They're part of a kind of suffering. We subconsciously congratulate ourselves for even noticing.
A long time ago, in the villages of Africa, children were treated like kings. The community knew that their gifts would carry on the legacies of the tribe, so it was the responsibility of adults to draw out the best of each child. How different is this philosophy from the attitude toward children in most places in the world today! You might wonder, why i am telling all these things. The documentary, 'Born Into Brothels', takes us right into the homes where the children play. Where is their homes???
The place of their home is Sonagachi, Calcutta's red light district, where the children of prostitutes essentially see two types of adults: their mothers and a steady stream of male strangers, all with the same dehumanizing intentions.
British photographer Zana Briski originally went to Sonagachi to document the lives of its women. But after meeting and quickly befriending their children, she altered her plans. She not only made a film about the kids, she tried to give them a future.
"Born Into Brothels," is about her attempts to change the perspectives of eight children -- literally and figuratively -- through photography workshops. Briski recruited New York docu editor Ross Kauffman to help her record the process, and the observed results confirm her enthusiastic assessment of some of the kids' talents. Numerous photos show a real eye, which in fact led to multiple international shows of the work in New York and Amsterdam.
AnalysisBriski and Kauffman go easy on the noble intentions and steer clear of larger statements about third world poverty and exploitation. Instead, they focus on the children, who are funny, and desperate to get out of the hellhole that is their lives. We quickly come to know them as individuals: Shy Kochi, bossy Shanti, prankish Manik, serious Gour, placid Suchitra. Two seem especially blessed with potential: the charismatic Puja, who serves as occasional narrator, and her friend, the chunky, sensitive Avijit.
''Born Into Brothels" doesn't flinch. It shows these children navigating a hopelessly ruined adult world, aware that their own time is running out. The girls have it the worst: They know only education will save them from the line and that no school in India will take the children of sex workers.(In most cases, their own families are pressuring them to take up prostitution as soon as possible.)
There's a measure of suspense toward the end, as Avijit's chance to be part of a children's photo-editing panel in Amsterdam looks to evaporate after his mother dies in a mysterious fire (probably set by her pimp) and the boy sinks into depression. Although some may be annoyed at the image of the concerned Westerner playing God in the lives of unfortunate Third World childrens, few could deny that these are kids desperately in need of a helping hand. The documentary doesn't talk about any political agenda., it just generates genuine emotion.
''Born Into Brothels" dignifies a handful of children for a Western audience far beyond what a charity photo in a magazine can do.More important, it gives them a chance to record their world. Most important of all, it opens the door to let some of them escape. Watching this documentary , makes us clear that, each child has a gold mine of creativity and wonder inside that is meant to be shared with others.
Briski has a foundation called 'Kids With Cameras', which supports the kids shown in the film and also sends other photographers out into the world to teach these children about photography.
A book containing photographs taken by the children in the film is available from Kids With Cameras.
Born Into Brothels - Imdb