Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Movie Week Review: Born into Brothels





I first watched
Born into Brothels about four years ago. Not surprising, I found myself just as moved by it now, as I did then. This film captures a poignant message -- that something can come from nothing. 




 

Zana Briski
Filmed within the Red Light District of Calcutta, India, this documentary uses photography and film to explore the lives of several sons and daughters of prostitutes in the city's brothels. The director (Zana Briski) started the project hoping to photograph the life of India's sex workers, but found it difficult to obtain permission to photograph them. Courageously, she took up residence in the Red Light District to become a part of their world, and in doing so became very involved and connected with the prostitutes' children. "Zana Auntie," as the children called her, was determined to use photography to provide the children with an opportunity for higher education, hope and a better life. What a precious gift!

Despite their circumstances, these children are engaged in the world around them. They are stimulated by it. It took a woman like Briski to do something revolutionary -- she empowered them to document the reality of their surroundings for themselves by putting a camera in their hands and teaching them how to use it. This in turn, unlocked their talent and imagination. 




As the kids excelled in their new found art, the filmmakers struggled to help them have a chance for a better life away from the miserable poverty that threatens to crush their dreams. Briski seeks to use the children's photographs to help secure them education at boarding schools by organizing an exhibition of their work in NYC, and a second exhibition at a bookstore in Calcutta to show the children the effect their work has on others. As the children receive local and worldwide attention, many of them seem to grow more hopeful that they have future prospects outside the brothel. One of the children, Avijit, separates himself from the rest through remarkable talent, and is selected to represent India as a child representative at a worldwide photography convention in Amsterdam.

By the end of the film, Briski has obtained spots for most of the children at boarding schools, hoping to keep them out of the brothels. However, not all children are allowed to leave the brothels by their guardians, and sadly, several leave the schools to return to the brothels by the film's end.

Born into Brothels both illustrates and exemplifies the power of art and artists to make a difference. It’s one of the most constructive and inspiring takes on the relationship of art and responsibility, of the artist and the world, that I’ve ever seen. Truly a great documentary about hope, perseverance, sadness, happiness and all the emotions that lie in between.

To watch this engaging documentary, click here.
To view photographs by these ‘kids with cameras’, click here.

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