• Born into Brothels

    Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids is a 2004 Indian-American documentary film about the children of

    prostitutes in Sonagachi, Kolkata 's red light district. The widely acclaimed film, written and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, won a string of accolades including the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature in 2005. [2]


    Briski, a documentary photographer , went to Kolkata to photograph prostitutes. While there, she befriended their children and offered to teach the children photography to reciprocate being allowed to photograph their mothers. The children were given cameras so they could learn

    photography and possibly improve their lives. Their photographs depicted a life in the red light district through the eyes of children typically overlooked and sworn off to do chores around the house until they were able to contribute more substantially to the family welfare. Much of their work was used in the film, and the filmmakers recorded the classes as well as daily life in the red light district. The children's work was exhibited, and one boy was even sent to a photography conference in Amsterdam. Briski also recorded her efforts to place the children in boarding schools although many of the children did not end up staying very long in the schools they were placed in. Others, such as Avijit and Kochi not only went on to continue their education, but were graded well.


    There is debate about the extent to which the documentary has improved the lives of the children featured in it. [citation needed]

    The filmmakers claim that the lives of children appearing in Born into Brothels have been transformed by money earned through the sale of photos and a book on them. Ross Kauffman, co-director of the documentary, says that the amount earned is $100,000 (about

    Rs. 4.5 million), which will pay for their tuition and for a school in India for children of prostitutes. Briski has started a non-profit organization to continue this kind of work in other countries, named Kids with Cameras. [3] A film is being made on the life story of a high-profile trio of call girl sisters, Shaveta, Khushboo and Himani, born in one of the brothels of Haryana.

    In November 2006, Kids with Cameras provided an update on many of the children's conditions, asserting that they had entered high schools or universities in India and the United States or found employment outside of prostitution[ citation needed] . Kids with Cameras continues to work toward improving the lives of children from the Calcutta red light district with the plan to build a Hope House. [4] Updates for 2010 and 2009 were also published. [5]


    In 2004, REACT to FILM organized a screening for Born into Brothels at the

    SoHo House in Manhattan, NY. In 2010, the film's director, Zana Briski, joined the advisory board of REACT to FILM. [7]


    The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a prostitutes' organization active in Sonagachi, has criticized the film for presenting the children's parents as abusive and for ignoring the prostitutes' efforts to provide education programs and career building activities for their children. [8] In addition, the film has been criticized in India for perceived racist stereotyping , and has also been viewed as exploiting the children for the purposes of Indophobic propaganda in the West. [9] A review in

    Frontline , India's national magazine, summarized this criticism, remarking:

    IF Born Into Brothels were remade as an adventure-thriller in the tradition of

    Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, its posters might read: "New York film-maker Zana Briski

    sallies forth among the natives to save souls . [9]

    Some critics joined the Sonagachi prostitute-advocacy groups in condemning the film for exploitation of the plight of the prostitutes for profit. [10] Other criticisms were raised about "ethical and stylistic" problems, by Partha Banerjee, interpreter between the filmmakers and the children. [11]


    Critical response

    Born into Brothels has an approval rating of 95% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes , based on 108 reviews, and an average rating of 7.83/10. The website's critical consensus states, "A powerful and uplifting documentary". [12] Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [13]


    2004 Bermuda International Film Festival Audience Choice Award - Briski, Kauffman; Documentary Prize - Briski, Kauffman

    2004 Cleveland International Film Festival Best Film - Briski, Kauffman

    2004 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Audience Award - Briski, Kauffman (tied with Word Wars)

    2004 International Documentary Association Award for Feature Documentaries - Briski, Kauffman,

    Geralyn Dreyfous-White , Pamela Boll (tied with Fahrenheit 9/11 )

    2004 National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary Feature - Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman

    2004 Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award for Best Documentary - Briski, Kauffman

    2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award, Documentary - Kauffman

    2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature Briski, Kauffman

    2005 Raindance Film Festival Closing Night Film


    2005 Directors Guild of America

    Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary - Briski, Kauffman

    2005 Golden Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture, Documentary

    2004 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards for Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film - Kauffman, Briski

    2004 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Documentary - Kauffman, Briski

    2013 Calcutta Film Festival (funded by Walt Disney Pictures), Documentary - Spielberg, Steven. Lucas, George. Abrams, J. J.


    1. ^ "Born Into Brothels (2004)" . Box Office Mojo. 14 July 2005. Retrieved 12 July 2012.

    2. ^ "Born into Brothels" . The New York Times . Retrieved 23 November 2008.

    3. ^ Kids with Cameras website

    4. ^ Hope House Archived 22 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine

    5. ^ "Update on the Kids of Calcutta" . Kids with Cameras . July 2010. Archived from the original on 7 October 2011.

    6. ^ "Update on the Kids of Calcutta" . Kids with Cameras . April 2009. Archived from the original on 23 April 2015.

    7. ^ "React to Film" . Ninunina.com . Archived from the original on 26 April 2012. Retrieved 17 February 2012.

    8. ^ "Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee- Education" . Archived from the original on 3 September 2013. Retrieved 18 August 2013.

    9. ^ a b A missionary enterprise , by

    Praveen Swami in Washington D C, Frontline

    10. ^ Swami, Praveen (2005). "A missionary enterprise" .

    www.frontline.in . Retrieved 21 January 2018.

    11. ^ "Kolkata connection at the Oscars" . Archived from the original on 3 March 2005. Retrieved 2009-01-18., Yahoo news

    12. ^ https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/born_into_brothels

    13. ^ https://www.metacritic.com/movie/born-into-brothels-calcuttas-red-light-kids

    External links

    Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids on IMDb

    Born into Brothels at Rotten Tomatoes

    Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids at AllMovie

    Born into Brothels at Box Office Mojo

    Movie on Kolkata brothels wins Oscar , a report in The Indian Express

    Review of the movie by Roger Ebert

    The official site of pictures taken by kids

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