- Born into Brothels
name = Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids
caption = Film poster
producer = Zana Briski
writer = Zana Briski
starring = Shanti Das
music = John McDowell
cinematography = Zana Briski
editing = Ross Kauffman
released = flagicon|USA
17 January, 2004(premiere at Sundance)
8 December, 2005(NYC only)
2 September, 2005
runtime = 85 min.
language = Bengali
amg_id = 1:299929
imdb_id = 0388789
"Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids" is a
2004American documentary filmabout the children of prostitutes in Sonagachi, Calcutta's red light district. The widely acclaimed film, written and directed by Zana Briskiand Ross Kauffman, won a string of accolades including the Academy Award for Documentary Featurein 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
photographyand 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[ [http://kids-with-cameras.org 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. [ [http://www.mukto-mona.com/Articles/partha_ban/born_into_brothels.htm 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( http://www.kids-with-cameras.org/school/)
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
Full Frame Documentary Film FestivalAudience 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 America2005 DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary - Briski, Kauffman
* 2005 Golden Satellite Award for Best Motion Picture - Documentary
International Documentary AssociationAward 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
* [http://www.expressindia.com/fullstory.php?newsid=42484 Movie on Kolkata brothels wins Oscar] , a report in
The Indian Express
* [http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050210/REVIEWS/50127004/1023 Review of the movie] by
* [http://kids-with-cameras.org/home/ The official site of pictures taken by kids]
Academy Award for Documentary Feature
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