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A Documentary: Born Into Brothels

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1505 words Published: 11th May 2017

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Obtained as the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, the film Born into Brothels has another name that is Calcutta’s Red Light Kids. Obviously, the focus of this film is on kids rather on brothels. Actually, in 1998, American director and documentary photographer Zana Briski and Kauffmen meant to go to Calcutta to photograph prostitutes. While there, she found seven children to teach them how to use cameras to reciprocate being allowed to photograph their mothers. These small and précised machine light up the artistic talent of these kids. For them, learning photography may be just a game, however, in the movie, this kind of learning stands for a possibility of changing their fates. But these kids have a special identity-they are prostitutes’ children which pains their destiny darker color. It is fatalistic that experiencing ups and downs is not the sorrow of life, the most tragic things is to find that the destiny has already doomed after a hard struggle. In Sonagachi, Calcutta’s red light district, poverty and disease spread here and people live a life without hope. While, the most intolerable fact is that the children of those prostitutes not only have to endure other’s discrimination but to face their dark fate which has been doomed in their early age. Fortunately, at the end of the film, we know that though not all children can get rid of the hard living condition, some of them may live a different life.

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Camera is the Wings of Hope

The highlight of this film is that much of Kids’ records are used in it. And thanks for children’s innocence, happiness and leisure in face of difficulty release the hard scenes of the film, bring us some both charming and meaningful pictures and expose the unknown life of red light strict. Through the eyes of these kids, we observe their world. I can not forget kids’ worry, curiosity, surprising or longing when they are first in touch with cameras: Kochi is a sensitive girl, and she feels shy taking picture in public, because people tease them and say mean things like “Look at them taking photographs, who knows where they could have bought those cameras from!” Puja is a lively girl, she says: “one day I opened the camera and the whole roll got burnt.” So, she does not open it anymore; Manik cannot wait anymore to take sea photos for he is curious about what it is like the sea; his sister Shanti speaks out the children’s heart voice: ” we like doing photography so much that we forget to do our work.” Tapasi feels fabulously when she holds the camera and she says: “Zana Auntie teaches us so well that everything goes into our brain.” For in the past, there is no possibility for these kids to hold a camera and they only see other people taking photos. So, how amazing the camera meant to them. For by camera, they see the world through a square box; by camera, they can take photos of dead and missing people; by camera, they world become more hopeful.

In addition, I still remember these kids’ dreams. When in the exhibition, the respondent asks about Avijit’s dream, he says: “I used to be a doctor, then I wanted to become an artist….But now I want to be a photographer.” Gour tells us why he likes photographing: “I take pictures to show how people in this city live…I want to put across the behavior of man. ” Suchitra thinks that to learn taking photos is to acquire knowledge which may help her to be a useful person. Their dreams reflect in their heart that they are eager for a better life. As long as there is hope, nothing is impossible. While Zana’s effort likes a pair of wings for kids’s hope. With hope and effort, these children’s dreams will come true. Take Avijit as an example, now he is studying Film and Television in New York University, which is a good chance to transform his fate. However, another kid is not as lucky as Avijit, it is said that she fails to escape the fate of being a prostitute like her mother. Whatever, it is the cruelty of life. After all, as an artistic work, movie represents a sort of yearning for better which offers people more hope than chance, just as Tapasi says in the film: “One has to accept life as being sad and painful.”

Life is Not a Hard Pill to Swallow

It dose not surprise that Born into Brothels were awarded so many great prizes. For this film brings audience to somewhere few of us have chance to go. Through the film, we acknowledge that to bring up a prostitute’s child is so uneasy, that is to say a prostitute’s child in his growth will suffer more. At the begin of the film, the narrator is Kochi, she tells us that everyday in 4 am, she has to begin to do some housework such as washing plates and mopping the floor. Even at 11pm, if people want to eat food, she has to get it. In the whole day’s work, she almost has no time to rest. Another example comes from Avijit, in the period of shooting this film, 12-year-old Avijit’s mother was burnt to death by pimps, but few people paid much attention to this kind of ‘accustomed’ thing. His mother is his only dependence, just as Avijit says in the film: “There is nothing called ‘hope’ in my future.”

Moreover, the special film perspective successes in expressing the children’s life and strengthening the influence of this movie. Through implicit shooting angel, such as by child’s own monologue to constitute this film is a striking and brief way to express these children’s lives. For instance, Kochi says: ‘I keeping thinking if I could go some place else and get education, I wonder what I could become.’ From her words, we could see that this girl yearns for a better life and she knows the power of education but she is lack of opportunity. And it is sorrowful to realize that so many kids in the red light street have to face such a cold reality. Another scene is in an old and tattered zoo where the children are photographing the dying animals. Isn’t it a symbolic picture? In some degree, those dying animals are similar to the kids themselves. Both are struggling to live and forgotten by people, even by their parents. That’s what I am thinking the most tragic thing fro them.

Fortunately, happiness does not totally turn its back to these children. There is art for soothing the child’s mind. Truly, their works are their wealth which is worth being collected by every home. According to the Briski’s narration in the film that sometimes these children ask her for help, but it is heart-breaking that so little Briski could do for them. However, Briski tries her best to help these red light’s kids to sale their works, in order to raise money for their education. And under Briski’s help, two exhibitions on these kids’ photos have been held in Oxford. Although Briski emphasizes again and again that she is not a social worker, her and her co-director Kauffman never stop promoting these children’s stories. So, both Briski and Kauffman have participated into the life of these kids. I believe that with more concern and help from people like Briski and Kauffman, these kids would have more opportunities to get educated and a better live condition

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It is this group of four girls and three boys bring the document attracting and enlightening pictures. By unique perspective, we peep into some unknown moment of the life of crowded red light strict. In fact, those pictures by these seven children express not only the extraordinary ability of observation and talent but reflect out a greater, more inspiring and shocked fact: Aar is an enormous power for relieving soul and releasing talent. Although most part of the movie is consisted by children’s speaking, it is not a gushing of useless emotion. And those silent pictures are more powerful than those speeches. Actually, pictures by kids are the shadow of their mind rather only some original or strange photos, these works are forceful evidence of the strong artistic spirit.

Some critics hold the opinion that the true meaning of this film lies in its didactic function, which teaches children live in rich areas to cherish their better life and chance to be educated. Well, on this kind of point of view, I have my reservations. For at this time, the last words of the film surface in my mind: in honor of the women and children of the red light district. In regard of this, I believe that our female director just want to in her artistic way to arouse the society’s concern for this special vulnerable groups. But, the most important fact is that we should see the artistic value of this film first, then its moral teaching. After all, the true charm of this film is those children’s fascinating works.


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