Born Into Brothels (2004)


Director:  Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman
Plot:  Two documentary filmmakers chronicle their time in Sonagchi, Calcutta and the relationships they developed with children of prostitutes who work the city's notorious red light district.

Genre:  Documentary
Awards:  Won 1 Oscar - Best Documentary Feature
Runtime:  85min
Rating:  NC16 for some sequences of strong language.


Documentaries seek to teach and educate.  While some attend to the general public, others are deeply personal.  Born Into Brothels is an excellent example of a documentary that is the product of years of devotion and commitment to a passion. 

Here, the filmmakers work hard to show viewers from around the globe the stark and incomprehensible difference between the lifestyles that we proudly embrace as compared to people who are born almost without hope.

Born Into Brothels is a humble look at the lives of children of Calcutta.  Lucky ones get to enroll in a boarding school and make it to university.  Others continue the unlucky cycle of being born into families whom are so poor to the extent that every member earns money through illegal trading of drugs and liquor, and through prostitution. 

Using first-hand footage of the sights and sounds of the red light districts of Calcutta, and the frequent use of still photographs taken by the fortunate children who are part of the project, the filmmakers emphasize the need for us to understand the plight of these affected people, and the reason why hope is so important to them.

Occasionally, Born Into Brothels causes viewers to tear up due to the subject matter, but it never makes us feel outright sympathetic.  Instead, we are enlightened by the resilience of these oppressed children.  

While the overall mood is sad, Born Into Brothels ends with the reassurance that at least some of the children have the maturity to realize that without education, they will be stuck in a hellish wheel that turns forever. 

Born Into Brothels is an important film, and the humanitarian work that the filmmakers achieved are nothing short of impressive.  One has to salute the remarkable efforts of these social workers as well as the vibrancy shown by the children of Calcutta even though their lives are grim and short.

GRADE: A- (8.5/10 or 4 stars)

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