I watched a documentary called “Born into brothels” yesterday. I hadn’t heard about the movie before so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was already a little spooked out by my last adventure of watching ‘what the bleep do we know?’ and so was very apprehensive about this documentary. Once bitten twice judgmental. So here I was with my friends thinking, ‘I can’t believe I got myself into this’. It was a Saturday night and I didn’t want to feel angry, useless and depressed all at once like I did after I watched ‘Salaam Bombay’. I reserve such heavy material movies for non-drinking and/or non-weekend days….that doesn’t really leave too many days in a year, but the point is I was going to get a shot of reality instead of kamikaze on a Saturday night. Clearly labeled as a documentary all hopes for sexcapades of Lolita were abolished. I felt like a puppy about to get its weekly bath.
To my greatest surprise, it wasn’t a movie focused on the sad state of affairs of the kids in brothels. The movie effortlessly connects you to these kids, their life, perspectives, hopes and goals. Filmed by a photographer and filmmaker Zana Brisky, this documentary is her effort and struggle to give these kids a chance at a better life.
Zana starts frequenting the brothels of Calcutta, India to photograph the women and their life there. Unintentionally she befriends the kids and finds herself on a new mission of teaching the kids photography. Zana gives eight kids point and shoot cameras and starts tutoring them on photography. The kids themselves photograph much of the documentary. What starts out as a fun project, shapes into an incredible inspiring saga.
One of the kids is so talented that he is chosen to go to Amsterdam for a 7-day workshop by the World Press Photo Foundation. This workshop invites 10 individuals every year from all over the world to get their views on photography. The kid does not really care about this opportunity; he is lost in another world as he finds out that his mother was burned alive and dies of burn injuries. These kids are faced with difficult decisions at such an early age. They are not choosing ice-cream flavors, they are choosing between family and a chance at a life out of the brothel at 8 years of age.
Sometimes when you hear them talk you feel like you are listening to a 40 year old person who is disillusioned by life. In other instances they are just regular kids playing pranks and laughing contagiously.
I loved everything about this documentary. The photography, the way the subject is handled, the portrayal of the kids and most of all the message of the movie. For once the case is made for them for what they are—talented, smart, hard-working, productive kids.
Rated A for Awe-inspiring and empowering. Don’t miss it.