Friday, 30 January 2015
Born into Brothels
Helen's pick for #2 in our photography movie series was "Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids," a 2005 Academy Award winning documentary film from filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman. I have to confess, I was apprehensive at first, not appreciating what it would have to do with photography as I knew nothing about it before I started watching. I hunted it down -- finally found it available (in full, for free!) on Youtube, here.
Documentary filmmaker Zana Briski went to photograph and film the prostitutes of Calcutta's red light district. But along the way, she realized that kids were everywhere living in the brothels. She started a photography class, giving the kids cameras and teaching them how to use them, how to compose, what makes a good photograph.
And Helen, I have to say -- I loved this movie. In terms of photography, I loved that it said a lot about what photography can do. How each person's view of his or her life is important. How (as one kid says) a photo may show something hard to look at, but we have to look because it's true. How holding a camera is empowering, and can lead to the realization that our view of the world is valuable. The film work in this movie captured the chaos, the crowding, the noise, the dirt, the grim reality of life in that place, too. So there was the added layer of movie cameras filming, and saying on a bigger level what the kids were saying with their own photos.
It was hard not to get attached to each of the kids -- some so lively and quick, some serious and worried, seeing the reality of their likely futures. And so watching as "Zana Auntie" tries to find schools who will take them, tries to get one talented boy a passport so he can travel to another country as an award for his artistic ability -- was poignant and gripping. I'd love to know where those children are today. (Actually, I went and looked to see if there was any information. There's an update from November, 2006 here and another from 2010 here.)
I found it hard to separate my emotional reaction to the content from the film and imagery -- which I guess is what good film-making and photography are all about, eh?
By the way, maybe you need to team up with your lawyer/photographer friends to do an exhibit at your friend Nisha's restaurant, to raise money for Kids with Cameras!
So, great pick. I don't think I'd have heard of this movie but for it being on the list and your picking it for us to watch!
Oh - and here's my pick for this coming week: Ansel Adams: A Documentary Film (2002). It's also available, in full, on Youtube here.