Born Into Brothels
Released in 2004, the documentary Born Into Brothels won the Oscar for Best Documentary next year for depicting the realities from the life of the children living in Calcutta's red light district. Acclaimed by the Western critics and denied by the Indian side, the movie touches one of the most sensitive realities from India – the red light districts.
Arrived initially in India to document the life of the prostitutes from the red light districts, the New York based photojournalist Zana Briski and the filmmaker Ross Kaufman decide to shift the focus of their project towards the children living in the area of the sex commerce from Calcutta. The realities shown by the camera are not comfortable for the Indian elite that reacted violently after the release of the movie. The Indian journalist Partha Banerjee accused the producers for not recognizing the victories of the authorities in the red light district from Calcutta – “With help from hundreds of Calcuttan activists, social workers and medical practitioners, Sonagachi has become synonymous with many struggles won by its inhabitants (for one, the HIV rate among sex workers in Sonagachi is remarkably low: 5% compared to 80% in Mumbai)”. So, is 5% safe? What about the other cities from India? Are the Indian authorities successfully in their work to improve the life in the red districts and they don’t need any more international assistance since they call the two producers “white saviors”? But why this movie hurts so much the Indians? What is it all about?
The red light district is almost impossible to document from exterior as Zana Briski declared in the movie opening. A society divided in castes for almost 4,000 years, and modernized with force by the British colonization is still dominated today by the syndrome of the secret-mania and the refuse to open towards the exterior. To cross these psychological and social barriers Zana decides to live in...