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Overall Rating

Awesome: 34.21%
Worth A Look55.26%
Just Average: 2.63%
Pretty Crappy: 5.26%
Sucks: 2.63%

4 reviews, 14 user ratings

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Born Into Brothels
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by Elaine Perrone

"Snapshots From Hell."
5 stars

FIRST SCREENED AT SEATTLE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2004. At the age of 10, the children living in the Red Light District of Calcutta already know their lives are doomed. By then, the girls have been warned by their mothers, sisters, and aunts – prostitutes, all – that it is only a matter of time before they will be joining the women and older girls in “the lines.” For the boys, their only role models are men who spend their days in stupors of alcohol and hash, dealing drugs and beating up on their wives for not keeping them in spending money for liquor. One young boy, Avijit, tells wistfully of his mother “jokingly” promising to send him to school in London – noting with an awareness that no child of that age should have to possess that the family has barely enough money for the essentials of keeping themselves alive from day to day, and none whatsoever for education. When Avijit’s mother’s pimp sets her on fire in what is reported to the authorities as a “kitchen accident,” the once ebullient boy gives in to resignation. “There is nothing called hope,” he says, heartbreakingly, “in my future.”

Arriving in this Hell-on-Earth to photograph the brothels of Calcutta, documentarians Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman quickly learn that, for the less-than-law-abiding citizenry, cameras are an unwelcome sight. Undeterred, they move into the area, and Briski eventually gains the trust of the women and forms a strong bond with their children, who affectionately call her “Zana Auntie.”

Determined to bring some joy into the lives of these neglected and abused children, Briski gives a number of them point-and-shoot cameras and some basic lessons in the art of photography. Several of the youngsters turn out to have a natural talent – although at least one can’t seem to get the hang of remembering to use a flash when taking photos at night. In particular, Avijit seems to have an affinity for the complexities of composition, lighting, color, and other techniques that make his photos so special.

Realizing that the only possible way for these children to escape their destinies is through education, Briski hacks her – and the youngsters’ – way through miles of bureaucratic red tape, only to learn that most of the schools refuse to teach the children of sex workers. Daunted but unbeaten, Briski helps the children – and teaches them an important lesson in self-reliance, in the bargain – when she hits upon the idea of selling their work to pay for their education.

Despite its grim setting, Born Into Brothels is an amazingly uplifting and entertaining testament to the generosity of (some) human spirits and a celebration of the artistic talents of some pretty intrepid children. It is far from a happily-ever-after tale, though. Of those few children who were finally granted education, two found their way back to the brothels through choice, another because her parents pulled her from the school.

Still, that Briski saved one girl from a life of prostitution – and Avajit found a measure of hope in his future – makes Born Into Brothels an exhilarating, and applause-worthy, documentary.

As a closing note, I want to mention Zana Briski's philanthropic organization, Kids With Cameras, which continues working to bring hope to impoverished and endangered children around the globe. So far, in addition to the work Briski did in Calcutta, the group has launched projects in Haiti, Jerusalem, and Cairo. The Calcutta children's work is available for purchase as individual prints or in book form, and donations can be made by clicking on http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/bornintobrothels/film.php

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=9619&reviewer=376
originally posted: 02/07/05 00:25:41
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Boston Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Boston Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Mill Valley Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival. For more in the 2005 Victoria Independent Film & Video Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/09/12 Gundoskve Aloha! kin 2 stars
2/06/12 Gundosgnn Aloha! fwi 2 stars
9/19/06 Dane Flynn This was the worst movie ive seen in my life, so damn boring and i had to read for 2h 1 stars
4/01/06 Suzz One of the best documentaries I've ever seen 5 stars
12/06/05 Phil M. Aficionado Beauty & hope amidst squalor; uplifting & disquieting -- like life; heartfelt & haunting 5 stars
12/01/05 kathy I totally fell in love with each and every child in this compelling documentary. 5 stars
10/18/05 john w sullivan very life enhancing 4 stars
8/20/05 Will if you didn't 'care about the kids' on this one, you have no soul 5 stars
3/08/05 Gini Poor camera work. Spellbound made us care more about the kids. Won Oscar on subject matter 3 stars
2/08/05 Ray Great movie 4 stars
1/30/05 Winston Steward Utterly Amazing. A wonderful film 5 stars
8/27/04 Winnie Dawson Entertaining, poignant look at the sociocultural effects of parent's choices on children. 5 stars
6/17/04 Mitali Chakraborty AMAZING....excellent job in portraying the culture, language and truth 5 stars
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  08-Dec-2004 (R)
  DVD: 20-Sep-2005



Directed by
  Zana Briski
  Ross Kauffman

Written by
  Zana Briski
  Ross Kauffman


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