Born into Brothels
|Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids|
|Directed by||Zana Briski
|Produced by||Zana Briski
|Written by||Zana Briski
|Music by||John McDowell|
|Editing by||Ross Kauffman|
|Release date(s)||January 17, 2004Sundance)
December 8, 2005
|Running time||85 minutes|
|Box office||$3,515,061 (USA) |
Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids is a 2004 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.
Briski, a documentary photographer, went to 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. The perspective shown through the children's 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 boarding schools they were placed in. Others, such as Avijit and Kochi not only went on to continue their education, but did phenomenally attaining good grades and becoming prime examples of what can happen when a child is given a chance at their dreams.
There is debate about the extent to which the documentary has improved the lives of the children featured in it.
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. 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. 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. 2010  and 2009 update were also published.
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. 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. 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."||”|
Some critics joined the Sonagachi prostitute-advocacy groups in condemning the film for exploitation of the plight of the prostitutes for profit. Other criticisms were raised about "ethical and stylistic" problems, by Partha Banerjee, interpreter between the filmmakers and the children. The idea of taking children of one culture and attempting to rescue them through the cultural values and norms of another is an idea that Leslie Wang addresses in her article, "Importing Western Childhoods into a Chinese State Run Orphanage" 
Wang discusses the potential moral dilemmas children may go through as well as how some of these changes being made by the "rescuers" may not be realistic to the culture they are attempting to aid in. Luckily for many of the children Briski worked with and attempted to help, this process was overcome by the immense opportunity placed before them, the opportunity to get an education and move away from the red light district they had known for so long.
- 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 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 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 FestivalFunded by Walt Disney Pictures, Documentary - Spielberg, Steven. Lucas, George. Abrams, J. J.
- "Born Into Brothels (2004)". Box Office Mojo. 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2012-07-12.
- "NY Times: Born into Brothels". NY Times. Retrieved 2008-11-23.
- Born Into Brothels
- Kids with Cameras website
- [dead link]
- "React to Film". Ninunina.com. Retrieved 17 February 2012.
- A missionary enterprise, by Praveen Swami in Washington D C, Frontline
- Kolkata connection at the Oscars, Yahoo news
- Wang, Leslie. "Importing Western Childhoods into a Chinese State-Run Orphanage." Qualitative Sociology 33.2 (2010): 137-59. Print.
- Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids at the Internet Movie Database
- Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids at AllRovi
- 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