Born into Brothels
October 8th, 2005
First time I heard about this movie was when it won the Oscar for Best Documentary. It’s not the kind of movie that would be easy to market to a wide audience; there’s a lot in the film that is hard to watch, and a lot that really makes you think twice about the world. Living in the brothels of the red light district of Calcutta, Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman have created a powerful movie about children in adverse situations, achieving their dreams through art, and hope.
The real stars of this film are, of course, the children who live in the brothels. These aren’t perfect children, and the filmmakers don’t attempt to paint them as saints. They have faults, they have weaknesses, and they are each unique in their own ways. Each of them wants a better life. It’s as simple as that.
There isn’t a lot that I can say about the film that hasn’t already been said by people much more articulate than me. It’s uplifting, it’s funny, it’s heartbreaking, it’s moving.
While it appears like there are a lot of special features, they’re pretty brief. There is a small segment, "Reconnecting," which meets up with the kids 3 years later. Much too short, maybe only 5 minutes. There are 7 sets of deleted scenes, including one entire kid that they mostly cut from the film. These were good cuts, the scenes were not necessary, and some just reiterated what had already been presented in the film.
There are about 19 behind the scenes photos by Zana, Ross, and some of the kids. Notably missing are the children’s actual photographs. I thought that would be a no-brainer, but apparently not. There’s a small blurb about Kids with Cameras, and also the Academy Award acceptance clip. A brief interview with Charlie Rose after the Oscar win, the trailer, and a few other trailers.
I saved the best for last. The two commentaries I had to wait a while to watch them; you can only watch the same movie so many times in one day. The director’s commentary with Zana and Ross was fairly run-of-the-mill, with some nice insight on things you already know or guessed. You can really see how much they loved Kochi though, and you can’t watch the film without falling in love with the little sweetheart. Their honest remarks about the children show that they really do care about them, and embrace their shortcomings.
The second commentary is video footage of the children watching select scenes from the film several years later. For most of it, they tease each other playfully, but when a serious scene comes on, they instantly become quiet, and remind each other that it’s all in the past, they’re so much better now. They way these children interact with each other is like that of a close-knit family; they’ve seen each other at their worst, and their best. These kids that have been given the fuzzy end of the lollypop in life, they show us that nobody should ever give up, that no situation is so dire that there is no escape from it.
My rating: B+