Thursday, October 05, 2006

Born Into Brothels

Born Into Brothels is an award winning documentary made in 2004 by Zana Briski. I saw it on cable prob 3 wks ago. Been meaning to blog about it, so here goes.

I caught the last part of this documentary one evening and, even though, let me say that it touched my heart in such an extraordinary way.

Zana Briski went to the red light district in Calcutta, India, to photograph the brothels there, and wound up befriending 8 to 9 young children whose parents/mothers were prostitutes. My wish is to see it all the way through one day... hopefully our DVD guy has a copy of it.

I caught the film at a place where Zana was taking the kids to the sea so that they could start using the cameras and photography equipment she had given to them - but from reading a review of the documentary, I realize there's so much more to this story that I didn't get to see - she trains the kids, teaches them how to use the equipment, etc. - I didn't learn until later in the film what the picture taking was all about... it turned out that she was trying to help these kids get an education so that they could get out of the brothels.

The documentary follows these kids into their daily lives. It shows the interaction w/ their parents, which was incredibly troublesome to say the least. The scenes fill you w/ heartache and, in most cases, you feel as though you are right there w/ them. There were no interviews of the parents and such... just silent watching, waiting and encouragement.

Some of the kids seem to handle the pain of their lives through joking and kidding around, while some are very serious, and some are troubled young souls. You can see the pain in their eyes, but when they smile, you smile. To watch these kids and the way their parents treat them, well, it makes you incredibly sad. I found myself crying several times before the end of the film. The mothers treat many of them like slaves and/or worse than animals really. They yell and call them names.... even refusing, at the end, to allow so many of the kids to make anything better of themselves. After watching the footage, it's hard to imagine a life such as this. I can't imagine the pain and difficulty of growing up in such horrible situations, especially not having the love from a parent... it's truly sad.

Like I said, the film carries you through the day-to-day struggles of the kids, and allows them to open up and find a freedom through photography. Their artwork/pictures are eventually shown at a gallery in New York so that money can be raised to help fund their education. Many of the kids' photographs are sold during the gallery showing and worldwide, and they even have a showing in India so that the kids and their families can attend, sadly... none of the mothers/fathers/grandparents attend.

In most cases, the children weren't bothered by this and even make excuses for their mothers... I guess their only want is to feel good and to see how much they are appreciated in a world they know so little about. When they realize their pictures are selling, they are all so excited and filled w/ joy. They are so happy to know that ppl really like the pictures they've taken. You should see the smiles on their faces, and the joy they have for the first time. It lifted their pain and brightened their hearts.

One boy, in particular, had a real knack for taking pictures and the producers were trying diligently to get the boy away from his family so that he could attend school.


It turned out that many of the kids highlighted in this film left their families to attend school, but in the end only a few stayed. Many of the mothers had no desire for their children to learn anything in life and insisted that they stay home to help them, to take care of the babies, and made any excuse to keep the kids w/ them or bring them home after the fact. The little boy who was so popular and made such a mark w/ his photography - well, it took forever to finally convince him to go to school. His mother had passed away during the taping of this film - she was beaten by her pimp and, if I'm not mistaken, was set ablaze by him and died - well, the little boy seemed to totally distance himself after this (understandably) and started missing the get-togethers w/ the others kids, even hid away during some of the tapings, so it took forever to find him and then to convince him that he had potential and to not fear leaving.

Eventually, they were able to get a passport for him so that he could attend an event for photography. It was his first time to leave home and to meet other children and ppl w/ the same interests. After he did this, his mind changed and he realized that he really wanted to go to school. It was such a touching moment.

At the end of the film, this little boy was still in school and doing quite well. I guess only about 3 of the 8 or 9 kids wound up staying in school when so many of them wanted it more than anything. Their parents took them out for various reasons and a few of them left on their own. Living in the brothels and being poor was the only thing they knew, so it was easier to go back to that in most cases.

I can't do this film justice really... one, it was weeks ago when I saw it and was reminded of it only today when I visited a movie review blog and, two, I caught the tail end of the film. In saying this, I truly suggest the film to you. It was such a gripping piece of work and showed what encouragement and persistence can do for a child. So many of these kids will have nothing in their lives... many of the girls will wind up in prostitution like their mothers and grandmothers, and no one seems to care. They are very poor and it's the only thing they know.

If you get a chance, watch this film. It touches your heart in a big way... and honestly, I think there should be so many more made like this one... there needs to be a focus on a world that not many ppl think or know anything about. I know I didn't think about this world or know anything of it prior to seeing this film. It was the first time I had heard of this place or saw the brothels in India. I had heard of prostitution there but knew nothing about it.

Watch it if you have a chance. It's such a touching piece of work.


The Moody Minstrel said...

Things like this should remind us to knock off our griping and be thankful that our lives are as wonderful as they are.

Drima @ The Sudanese Thinker said...

Thanks for the heads up... Ama try and watch it.

BTW tooners your perspective will be very much appreciated on my latest post. You're an American girl living in the Middle East married to a Bahraini. I'm sure you sometimes get caught up in opposing "cultural forces".

Olivia said...

Yes, there really isn't much to be said about things like this, but loads to be done about it.

Munther said...

Thanks tooners for the tip, keep me informed on where to get it from, for I am sure my useless DVD place would never have it ! :P Have to agree with olivia much to do but little is done about this sad problem !

tooners said...

you know, there's another documentary coming out from this director, but i'll have to look for her name... it's called Water. It's a two part or three part series... or rather, i think she has another set of films that are called Red, White & Blue... these are three different films. i was reading that they are also very good. i think Water is up for some awards in the U.S., but not certain about it.

tooners said...

drima, i checked out your latest post... great post! i left a huge comment... this topic is something that has struck me as unfair for a long time and something i've debated w/ ppl for a while now, but it's hard to change the opinions of some men in this part of the world.

Jane said...

I also saw this movie and it is haunting, to say the least. Those kids are stronger than steel to survive as they do. Heartbreaking.