Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Born into Brothels

[Born into Brothels, by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, is the winner of the 77th annual Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes. The film, released by THINKFilm, premiered theatrically at the Film Forum in New York City in December 2004. It has since opened in over one hundred theatres nationwide. It premiered on HBO/Cinemax on Tuesday, August 16th, 2005. The photographs taken by the children in Born into Brothels are available for purchase in the Kids' Gallery, and as a signed limited-edition portfolio, or as a compilation in our companion book. 100% of proceeds from sales of the children's prints go directly to support their education and well-being.]

JJ showed this in class last night. What an eye opening documentary! These poor children are born into the brothels of India (and that is obviously not the only country that has this problem) where they live among the squalor, filth, drugs and sex that surround their "homes." Girls are pretty much shit out of luck b/c they are expected to continue the line, as they call it. I am not sure what really becomes of boys, but they no doubt continue the sex and drugs they've been around their entire lives. Their lives are pretty hopeless, it seems.

This photographer spent a few years in the Red Light district of Calcutta and became very attached to the children in a particular brothel. She decided to teach them about photography. She gave them each a camera and they had class every week, discussing their compositions, etc. Some of them had a really good eye, especially a young boy name Avijit who was no doubt a fabulous artist. His drawings and paintings were incredible!

Anywho, this photographer became the personal advocate for these children. She looked for boarding schools, to get them out of the environment, and sponsored photo exhibits to raise money for their well-being. She even spent 8 hours in line so Avijit could get a passport and go to Amsterdam as the Indian Ambassador for this world child photography exhibit. I was amazed at the profound statements that came out of his mouth when he was analyzing pictures. He was wise beyond his years.

I was actually quite appalled at the language of these prostitute mothers!! The few Indian families I know are some of the most proper, conservative and respectful people I know! The curse words that flew out of these women's mouths! The filth, disrespect and complete lack of emotion towards others was very painful to see. Especially when they were directed at the children.

All of the children in this documentary were amazing. The photographer took them to the zoo and the beach, places they know doubt had never been before. She wanted to widen their horizons. I was so amazed at the spark for life these children had, despite their shitty circumstances. The human spirit never ceases to amaze me. To see Indians in this light only brought me full circle. We, as people, really do face all of the same problems. I know there are places just like this in America, as well as every other country. It isn't something that only the developing world deals with. All people have to face environments like this, which is why we should band together, even more. We are so much more alike than we realize. Or, we realize it and ignore it.

You can buy their pictures (for a hefty price) and the proceeds contribute to their well-being. One of my classmates, Laura, has this painting hanging in her bathroom so she will always be thankful for the things she has. (For instance, she has a nice, hot, tiled shower while these boys had to carry cold, dirty water upstairs everyday so they could bathe)

Some of my favs:

Gour, 13: "I want to show in pictures how people live in this city. I want to put across the behavior of man." This lil guy is so cute. And all he wanted to do was take his girl friends as far from that place as possible. Such a gentle, wise soul.
My fav. Gour picture:
Avijit, 11: "I used to want to be a doctor. Then I wanted to be an artist. Now I want to be a photographer." Sweet, wise little Avijit.

Such a creative young man. He picked up a bucket and tipped out the water/sand for this picture

Manik, 10:"We went to the beach to take pictures. I had never seen the ocean before. I was amazed!"

I love this image that Manik shot of Puja

Suchitra, 14:"When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy. I feel like I am learning something...I can be someone."

Love this picture!

Update on the Calcutta Kids:
April 2008

Avijit, 19, began studying in the U.S. three years ago. He is currently finishing his senior year at a private high school. Over the past two summers, he has participated in prestigious film programs through the Sundance Institute and NYU Tisch. He plans to attend university in the U.S. this fall and is interested in studying both medicine and film.

Kochi, 16, stayed at the Sabera Home for Girls for five years. She has chosen to continue her studies in India and she will enroll in school this spring.

Manik, 16, and Shanti, 17, are both still studying at FutureHope, where they are doing very well.

Tapasi, 18, left Sabera on her own accord two years ago and has since married.

Suchitra, 21, has married and moved out of Calcutta.

Puja and Gour are believed to still be living in the red-light district but have lost contact with Kids with Cameras.

Kids with Cameras also supports the friends and siblings of the children featured in the film through sponsorships at Sabera and FutureHope. KWC will also develop a home for children from Calcutta's red-light district to bring opportunity for more children from the brothels. We will purchase land and construct a safe haven for up to 150 children, to be managed by our partnering organization, the Buntain Foundation. The Buntain Foundation has over 50 years of humanitarian experience in Calcutta and will provide scholarships for the children to attend local day schools while they reside at Hope House.