CFS: ‘Red Light Kids’

Marlee Morden

“Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids” is the next film being featured in the Cultural Film and Lecture Series, “Women Take the Camera.”

It won the 2005 Academy Award for Best Documentary, as well as 27 other awards when it was released in 2004.

Co-directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle eight children of prostitutes living in Calcutta’s red light district.

For these untouchables of society, the reality is that few will escape the cycle of poverty and the young girls will follow in their mothers’ footsteps and begin to sell themselves as soon as they are of age.

Briski, originally a photojournalist from New York, was drawn to these children because, unlike their mothers, they were full of trust and willing to openly share their world. She noticed that they showed great interest in her camera.

Instead of photographing the children in their environment, Briski provided them with cameras and a new set of skills so that they could tell their stories through photography.

The resulting photographs are stunning images of a downtrodden world seen through the eyes of innocent.

Many of the photographs have won awards, and Amnesty International used the images from “Born into Brothels” in its 2003 calendar.

The camera project was not intended to be turned into a documentary film.

However, as Briski witnessed the enthusiasm of the children-turned-photographers, she began to record their progress as they fully embraced their newfound art form.

The resulting footage she and Kauffman compiled is unforgettable.

“I want to show in pictures how people live in this city,” one of the young photographers, Gour, says. “I want to put across the behavior of man.”

Gour and the others serve as hopeful reminders of the potential and resiliency that lie in childhood.

The film also offers a challenge to overcome the indifference when it comes to helping these children.

“Born into Brothels” will be shown in Connelly Center Cinema four times: Saturday at 7 p.m, Sunday at 3:30 and 7 p.m. and Monday at 7 p.m. Admission is free for students and $5 for all other attendees.

The Monday night screening will feature guest speaker Judith Giesberg from the history department, who will introduce the film and lead a discussion afterward.