There are moments when I am made to be grateful of the life that I lead. Tonight is one of those moments after I watched Born into Brothels. The kind of challenges that you face are nothing compared to those experienced by these children. I picked up the DVD when I was in Singapore earlier this year and I only got the chance and the mood to watch it tonight.
It traced the quest of Zana Briski, a photographer who went to the Sonagachi area in Kolkata, India to take photographs of the prostitutes in the red light district. She ended up befriending the children of the prostitutes: talented Avijit, feisty Puja, playful Shanti, shy and charming Sochi and Suchitra, observant Gour and cheeky Manik. She taught them how to take photographs and realised that through the eyes of the children, she could delve deeper into the challenges facing them. The photographs taken by the children are really special, some would not look out of place as well if placed next to those taken by seasoned photographer. Born into Brothels is a very touching documentary without being melodramatic or manipulative. In the DVD, there is even a special feature of the emotional reunion between Zana and the children, three years on.
The documentary won the 2005 Academy Awards for Best Documentary and I believe that Zana and the team deserved it. They made this before Slumdog Millionaire exploded into the scene and it certainly gave a lot of insights into the plight of children growing up in red light districts all over the world. What kind of hope do they have, especially if they are girls? At the end of the documentary, we learn that some of the children terminated their education, and only one or two decided to press on. It’s heartbreaking but that’s life – you can’t always wrap everything up perfectly in a happy ending.
If you are keen to know more, have a look at: Kids with Camera – the organisation founded by Zana Briski.