Archives / 2004 Sundance Film Festival

Born Into Brothels

Director: Zana Briski, Ross Kauffman

Institute History

Description

The most stigmatized people in Sonagachi, Calcutta's red light district, are not the prostitutes, but their children. In the face of abject poverty, abuse, and despair, these kids have little possibility of escaping their mother's fate or for creating another type of life.

In Born into Brothels, directors Zana Briski and Ross Kaufmann chronicle the amazing transformation of the children they come to know in Sonagachi. Briski, a professional photographer, gives them lessons and cameras, igniting latent sparks of artistic genius that reside in these children who live in the most sordid and seemingly hopeless world. The photographs taken by the children are not merely examples of remarkable observation and talent; they reflect something much larger, morally encouraging, and even politically volatile: art as an immensely liberating and empowering force.

Devoid of sentimentality, born into Brothels defies the typical tear-stained tourist snapshot of the global underbelly. Briski spends years with these kids and becomes part of their lives. Their photographs are prisms into their souls, rather than anthropological curiosities or primitive imagery, and a true testimony of the power of the indelible creative spirit.

— Diane Weyermann

Screening Details

Sundance Film Festival Awards

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