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Born Into Brothels

Born Into Brothels

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Published by Vahide Goktas

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Published by: Vahide Goktas on Feb 23, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Humboldt-Universität zu BerlinInstitut fur AmerikanistikHS “American Media Today, American and Canadian Documentary”Summer semester: 2008/09Instructor: Marcus HeideStudent: Vahide GoktasStudent Number: 411220E-mail:vahidegoktas@yahoo.com
Born into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids about the Children of sexworkers in Sonagachi where is the Calcutta’s red light district in India. Born intoBrothels, written and directed by New York based photojournalist Zana Briski andRoss Kaufmann and it won over 25 major awards, including the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2005.Besides sex workers in Calcutta and feminists in India, a lot of intellectualsmade a response to the movie. The representation, the translation errors from Indianto English, the preparation process of the movie and Zana Briski’s statements after themovie had a lot of critics from India.Firstly, I want to start with a short summary of the movie: In 1997, ZanaBriski moved to Calcutta to live with sex workers and document their lives throughthe photography. During her living in the brothels, she developed her relationshipswith the children who are born into sex trades. Zana provided the children with 35mmcameras and taught them how to use the cameras at weekly workshops. The children
captured the images of their daily life and they had a chance to learn their owncreativity, their own-life and also their self worth. She also tried to get placed thesechildren in private schools to escape them from the red light district. But it was alsohard to find places in special schools, some of them had to turn back to Calcutta,some of them just taken by their families. One of the children also selected to travel toAmsterdam to be part of a children’s jury at World Press Photo Foundation photoexhibit in Amsterdam (2002). After spending a great effort, finally she managed tosend one of the kids, Avijit to Amsterdam.I want to tell about ethic aspects of the movie and I want to continue with aletter from secretary of Calcutta Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Community, which published at the Telegraph Newspaper on 15 March 2005.“There has been a lot of hype over 
 Born into Brothels
recently, with its maker, ZanaBriski, winning an Oscar. In her interview with
The Telegraph
, “I didn’t even realize Iwas making a film” (March 7), she has said that we did not cooperate with her over the film.It is true that she approached us and we too asked her many times to share the filmwith our ethics committee, but she didn’t pay any attention. Having seen the filmrecently, we now realize what the problem was. The film is a one-sided portrayal of the life of sex workers in Sonagachi. It shows sex workers as unconcerned about thefuture of their children. This is not true. Being a sex worker and a mother, I can saythat we are more protective as mothers than can be imagined. The documentary doesnot shed light on the valiant efforts of the sex workers to unite in order to change their own lives as well as that of their progeny. In this sense,
 Born into Brothels
is biased.In this age, when it is the norm to respect ethical considerations while makingdocumentaries, the film used hidden cameras to shoot intimate moments in the livesof sex-workers and their work zones.We fear the global recognition of such a film, giving a one-sided view of the lives of sex workers in a third world country, may do a lot of harm to the global movement of sex workers for their rights and dignity. It can even have an impact on their hard-wonvictories for rights, un-stigmatized healthcare and access to resources.”Yours faithfully,Swapna Gayen
secretary, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee, CalcuttaDuring the movie it is so clear that we are seeing a white woman who is

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