Born Into Brothels Review

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Two photographers and documentary filmmakers went to live and work among the prostitutes of Calcutta's red light district. Avoided by the camera-shy adults, they focused instead on the children of the brothels, teaching them photography and hearing their stories.


2005's Best Documentary Oscar winner is a lower-key affair than most of its contemporaries. But given that it was made by photographers living among very camera-shy prostitutes in Calcutta, that perhaps isn't surprising.

Instead, the directors became fascinated by the children of the brothels, a lively bunch with little education and no future, and gave them cameras and photography classes. Focusing less on the hellish environment from which they come, and more on where the cameras take them, the film shows the children's worlds opening up as they learn to see life through a lens.

The kids are engaging and matter-of-fact about their daily hardships – and, as it turns out, gifted photographers. However, the filmmakers' attempts to help distract from the kids' experiences, as their well-intentioned efforts offer little more than a 'bureaucracy is hell' message.

Some gorgeous imagery – mostly in pictures taken by the kids – and heartbreaking stories, but the directors' appearances sometimes feel self-indulgent.