offoffoff film



Site links
  • Contact us

    Get our newsletter:
    Search the site:

    Film section
  • Film main page
  • Film archive
  • Audio index
  • Film links

    Top 10 lists

  • Top 10 films of 2004
    (Andrea, David, Joshua, Leslie)
  • Top 10 films of 2003
    (Andrea, David, Joshua, Leslie)
  • Top 10 films of 2002
  • Top 10 films of 2001
  • Top 10 films of 2000
  • Top 10 films of 1999
  •  All of our top 10 lists, 1999 - 2004

    Current movies

  • Afterschool
  • Antichrist
  • Babies
  • Broken Embraces
  • Dare
  • District 9
  • The End of Poverty?
  • Fix
  • Food Beware
  • The Men Who Stare at Goats
  • Pirate Radio
  • Precious
  • Red Cliff
  • The September Issue


  • Brooklyn International Film Festival
  • Human Rights Watch Film Festival
  • New York Film Festival


    Complete archive

    Recent reviews:
  • (500) Days of Summer
  • Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer
  • The Art of the Steal
  • The Beetle
  • Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh
  • Boy A
  • Brideshead Revisited
  • The Brothers Bloom
  • Burn After Reading
  • Cold Souls
  • The Duchess
  • Elegy
  • Enlighten Up! A Skeptic's Journey Into the World of Yoga
  • Five Minutes of Heaven
  • Flame and Citron
  • Frozen River
  • Happy-Go-Lucky
  • How to Lose Friends & Alienate People
  • The Human Condition
  • Hunger
  • Inglourious Basterds
  • King of Shadows
  • The Lemon Tree
  • Lorna's Silence
  • A Man Named Pearl
  • Man on Wire
  • Memorial Day
  • Mister Foe
  • Morning Light
  • My F├╝hrer
  • My One and Only
  • Paris
  • The Pervert's Guide to Cinema
  • Peter and Vandy
  • Police, Adjective
  • Pray the Devil Back to Hell
  • Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind
  • Rachel Getting Married
  • A Secret
  • Sleep Dealer
  • St. Trinian's
  • Thirst
  • Throw Down Your Heart
  • Valentino: The Last Emperor
  • What's the Matter with Kansas?
  • Wild Grass
  • Jay DiPietro


    Born into Brothels

    My brothel's keeper

    Two filmmakers both chronicle and try to help the children born to prostitutes and other shunned women in Calcutta in the moving documentary "Born into Brothels."


    "The men who enter the building are not so good," states a 10-year-old girl speaking straight to the camera with disarming honesty. And so starts "Born Into Brothels," the new documentary by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, set in Calcutta's red district, or "The Line."

    Full title: Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids.
    Written and directed by: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman.
    Cinematography: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman.
    Edited by: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman.
    Film Forum 209 West Houston St. (between 6th and 7th Ave.) (212) 727-8100 Dec. 8-21, 2004

    Human Rights Watch Film Festival 2004
  • Overview
  • One Shot
  • Deadline
  • Maria Full of Grace
  • Persons of Interest
  • Official site
    Other festivals
  • Human Rights Watch 2001
  • Human Rights Watch 2003
  • As Briski explains at the start of the film, she went to India to photograph women — not necessarily prostitutes. She is then taken to Calcutta's labyrinthine red district where she is captivated by the many children running amok everywhere. She manages to get a room in "The Line," provides a handful of children with point-and-shoot cameras, gives them photography lessons and takes them on "photography trips" to the zoo and the beach. Under this premise, the film could have been teary-eyed and sentimental, but co-directors, co-producers and co-cinematographers Briski and Kauffman take the higher road: they let the children speak for themselves devoid of sentimentality, never portraying them or their families condescendingly.

    Born into Brothels  
    Mature beyond their years, the children talk just as easily about joining their mothers and sisters in "The Line" as they laugh and play with each other. Despite their chaotic reality (angry customers, drug and alcohol abuse, violence, poverty and misery), they manage to remain hopeful and even joyous. Learning how to take pictures allows them to explore their surroundings critically. Attesting to art's transformative power, they also learn to express themselves, to form their own opinions and to make their own choices, tools that were painfully unavailable to them before they learned how to operate a camera. The pictures they take are raw and powerful, but also playful. The contrast between their vitality and the grim reality is heartbreaking.

    Briski and Kauffman raise the stakes even further, actually getting involved in the children's futures. Briski is convinced that the only way out of The Line for them is to attend boarding schools, a daunting endeavor. For starters, no boarding school would accept "children of criminals" — all of Briski's students are the sons and daughters of prostitutes, drug-dealers, pimps, etc. India's bureaucracy is also beyond comprehension; getting a birth certificate or a ration card can take months, if it happens at all. To raise money, they arrange exhibits of the children's photos in New York and Calcutta, to great success. But life takes other turns, too. Shortly after Avijit, a talented 12-year-old, is invited to Amsterdam by the World Press Photo Foundation, her mother is brutally murdered.

      Born into Brothels
    Briski patiently weaves through India's bureaucracy and life on The Line, relentlessly trying to give these children a second chance. Her relationship with the children and their families grows stronger with each photography lesson, with each extracurricular activity such as the zoo, the market or the doctor. She never gives up and neither do the children. Briski even starts a foundation, Kids With Cameras, that continues to support the children and invites other photographers to embark in similar projects in other parts of the world ( At the end, not all the children in "Born Into Brothels" stay in school; and even those who do remain at risk today. But the filmmakers have won very important battles.

    "Born Into Brothels" is an inevitably sad documentary, but it is also inspiring and beautiful to watch. It ought not to be missed.

    DECEMBER 8, 2004

    Reader comments on Born into Brothels:

  • Born in the brothel   from Sophia Gawas, Jun 22, 2005
  • Re: Born in the brothel   from Lydia Hinton, Sep 26, 2005
  • Re: Born in the brothel   from Valare, Dec 7, 2005
  • well   from Ed, Nov 26, 2005
  • a must see   from Sandra Swieder, Mar 4, 2006
  • Amazing   from Jen, Dec 13, 2006
  • Born into brothels   from Marie Van Hecke, Apr 2, 2007
  • Born in Brothels   from Deborah H Wiseman, Aug 21, 2007

  • Post a comment on "Born into Brothels"