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Born Into Brothels (Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski)

Born Into Brothels

Born Into Brothels (Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski)
THiNKFilm / HBO Cinemax

“This is a good picture…we get a good sense of how these people live. And although there is sadness in it…and though it’s hard to face, we must look at it because it is the truth.”

This is the observation of a boy just 10 years old. This is a boy by the name of Avijit, an amateur photographer with a bright future, and an artist with boxes of awards in the humble confines of his tiny abode. His challenge, and those in his circle of close friends, is their world consists of prostitution within the dark alleys of Calcutta, mothers who sell their bodies to survive, fathers who sell drugs and alcohol, and one woman’s relentless pursuit to somehow, someway, provide them a chance at a viable future.

This documentary follows Zana Briski, a photojournalist, and her devotion for the children of the brothels, where she spent years living with and teaching them the basic of photography. With what could be considered to be a simple jester, she opened up a whole new world for these children and the world, as these kids discovered a talent within themselves and the rest of us got a chance to see their lives from their eyes. With a simple instamatic type of camera they capture such vivid portraits in motion, like those we gaze at on the pages of National Geographic or during the hey-days of Life Magazine. And what comes from their minds and mouths is even more stunning, how they’re able to see things at such a mature level and without bitterness, even under their circumstances and at such a young age.

It makes me think of how kids have it here, how billions are spent annually on “tweens,” and how with each generation the mode of entitlement and materialism grows. And across the world there are bright individual who simply want to grow up to be something other than a girl “on the line” and somehow make it to university.

For those that have not made it out, for those that didn’t appear in the film, we wonder what their lives will be s one, two, five years from now. If we are to assume anything, we will painfully realize their fate is not one of hope and prosperity, and they are merely meant to repeat their parents, and their grandparent’s way of life in the red light district.

This movie is both heartbreaking and inspiring, making one want to get on a plane and rescue them all.

You can in fact, help out the “Kids With Cameras” cause by going to their website,, and buying one of their prints. 100% of the net print sales goes directly to the children’s education and all contributions are fully tax deductible.


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