Born into Brothels

Born into Brothels

Infobox Film
name = Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids

caption = Film poster
director = Zana Briski
Ross Kauffman
producer = Zana Briski
Ross Kauffman
writer = Zana Briski
Ross Kauffman
starring = Shanti Das
Puja Mukerjee
Avijit Halder
music = John McDowell
cinematography = Zana Briski
Ross Kauffman
editing = Ross Kauffman
distributor =
released = flagicon|USA 17 January, 2004 (premiere at Sundance)
flagicon|USA 8 December, 2005 (NYC only)
flagicon|UK 2 September, 2005
runtime = 85 min.
language = Bengali
budget =
amg_id = 1:299929
imdb_id = 0388789

"Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids" is a 2004 American documentary film about the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi, Calcutta'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 Documentary Feature in 2004.


Briski, a documentary photographer, went to Kolkata (Calcutta) 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. 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.


There is debate about the extent to which the documentary has improved the lives of the children featured in it.Fact|date=June 2008

The film-makers 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 [ [ Kids with Cameras website] ] . A film is being made on the life story of a high profile trio call girl sisters, Shaveta,Khushboo and Himani, born in one of the brothels of Haryana.

However, Partha Banerjee, who worked on the film as an interpreter, has disputed the claim that the children's lives have been improved. In a February 2005 letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, he says that many of them ended up in worse circumstances than they had been in before their involvement in photography classes. [ [ Partha Banerjee's letter to AMPAS] , 1 February 2005] Critics argued that the lives and family circumstances of these children were too complex to be revolutionized by educating one family member in photography, or even by sending them to boarding schoolFact|date=June 2008. The documentary itself acknowledges that many of those saved from the red light district and put into boarding school ended up leaving the school and returning to their families before long.

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.Kids with Cameras continues to work towards improving the lives of children from the Calcutta Red light district with the a plan to build a Hope House(


A secretary of the Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, a prostitutes' organization active in Sonagachi, has criticized Briski for using hidden camera work to present the children's parents as uncaring, for ignoring the prostitutes' substantial efforts to unite, and for harming the global movement for sex worker rights and dignity.Fact|date=June 2008


* 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature - Briski, Kauffman
* 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 World Wars
* 2004 National Board of Review Award for Best Documentary
* 2004 Seattle International Film Festival Golden Space Needle Award - Briski, Kauffman
* 2004 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award - Documentary - Kauffman


* Directors Guild of America 2005 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary - Briski, Kauffman
* 2005 Golden Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture - Documentary
* 2004 International Documentary Association Award for Feature Documentaries - Briski, Kauffman, Dreyfous-White, Boll
* 2004 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award for Best Documentary/Non-Fiction Film
* 2004 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize - Documentary - Kauffman, Briski


External links

* [ 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]

###@@@KEY@@@###succession box
title=Academy Award for Documentary Feature
before="The Fog of War"
after="March of the Penguins"

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