Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Born Into Brothels

Another documentary viewing. Since I often watch films with very little beforehand knowledge, Born Into Brothels was completely different from what I was expecting from the title.

What I thought I was going to see was a film about kids born into brothels in India, and that was not wrong, but I did not know that it was also a film about photography and liberation.

Film-makers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman decide to show the lives of these kids through their own photographs, so they issue cameras and film to eight of them. Kids whose mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers are all on the streets; whose fathers are strung out on dope; whose lives are filled with chores from dawn till dusk and later, and yet whose families cannot afford 25 US cents to hire a babysitter for the evening. These are kids and their families living in the kind of abject poverty most of us can barely imagine.

And the funny thing is: almost the most heartbreaking part of that is that the kids know they have no future, that they will probably end up working the streets as prostitutes and pimps and pickpockets. They know the way they live is disgusting. You'd almost feel better if they "didn't know any better" and thought this was okay.

So it's incredible to see the enthusiasm with which they take to their new hobby, in order that, as 13-year-old Gour puts it, they can "show in pictures how people live in this city. I want to put across the behavior of man." But there is also a considerable amount of talent within the small group.

There are both tears and laughter throughout the 85-minute running time, good news and bad. But this is a heart-warming documentary that may well stay with you for some time. The DVD includes a couple of good extras too, such as highlights of the kids seeing the film for the first time and taking stock of how their lives have changed over the course of three years.

The film won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar at the 2005 ceremony, and I in turn award Born Into Brothels 80 points out of 100.

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