Film Analysis Essay: Born into Brothels

Paper Type:  Movie review
Pages:  4
Wordcount:  915 Words
Date:  2022-06-23


Born into Brothels is an Indian-American documentary film which focuses on the children born by the prostitutes from Kolkata's red light district in Sonagachi (Briski, Kauffman & McDowell, 2007). The film which has received a worldwide acclamation was written and directed by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman. It has since then won a string of accolades such as the Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2004. The documentary interweaves several themes such as the relationship between the people of Calcutta and their environment, the vulnerability of the children born by the prostitutes in Calcutta, their innocence, and their need to be loved, cared for, and guided (Briski, Kauffman & McDowell, 2007). The documentary through the pictures portrays the intensity of life extremes experienced by the children of the prostitutes in Calcutta.

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The writer of the documentary, Briski, who specializes in documentary photography traveled to Kolkata to photograph prostitutes. In her trip, she became friends with the children of these prostitutes and offered to teach them photography. As a result, reciprocating them to photograph their mothers. The children got a chance of owning cameras to enable them to learn photography which would, in turn, improve their lives. The pictures taken by these children depicted the life in the red life district (Briski, Kauffman & McDowell, 2007). Much of the work of these children were included in the documentary. The filmmakers of Born into Brothels recorded the daily lives of these individual children including their classes. The producer of the documentary made attempts to take the children to a boarding school. Unfortunately, most of the children who were given the opportunity to learn in the boarding schools did not stay long in the schools in which they were placed. However, some of the children such as Kochi and Acvijit who stayed in their schools continued with their education and got good grades at the end.

The documentary depicts very unusual scenes which are often emotionally affecting due to the treatment that these children undergo, as most of them are born but are neither wanted nor loved by their parents. As a result, these children often become veritable slaves in most places they live with limited chances of getting the basic education or exploring the world. For the girls, their mothers often expect them to join them in the business or replace them as soon as they become teenagers while the male children are often forced to serve as pimps spending most of their time fighting among themselves or in the drug stupors. These children are often exposed to all kinds of personalities such as the angry customers, murder, thievery, and addictions of all kind (Briski, Kauffman & McDowell, 2007). Through the documentary, the photographer Zana, took the opportunity of her trip to the poorest city of India to bond with these children, teach them how to use the camera to take pictures, and finally made a movie out of it depicting their struggle with here major focus on seven kids with ages ranging between 10 to 14 years (Rangan, 2011). The children were able to take pictures because of the lessons they received from Zana during which she was able to meet some of their parents. However, her meeting with the parents did not bear many fruits as she was only able to interact with them through the interpreters.

In Calcutta, prostitution is not often by choice but undertaken as a settled way of life. The families living in this area mostly engage in prostitution as their primary source of living. The documentary depicts a grandmother, mother, and daughter who have all engaged in the activity. Most of the female children engage in the practice as soon as they reach puberty (Rangan, 2011). The producer of the films works in a precautious manner to ensure no explicit scenes are depicted. In the documentary, the narration is mostly done by Briski, who does exemplary work in teaching the children and bringing out the best in them through the use of the cameras which help them see the world from a different perspective. The pictures captured by these children are heartbreaking as most of them have lost their childhood while some have lost their lives.


Despite the existence of life in this city, most of the towns in India are prosperous mostly inhabited by middle as well as executive class enclaves and a booming economy without the knowledge of what takes place every day in this town. The documentary captures the attention and imagination of every individual who watches it. It also brings to the attention of the public of the existence of the well-meaning individuals such as Briski who struggle each day to make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate amongst us. The children in the documentary such as Acvijit represented those around us with great talents but failed to get noticed due to the horrors surrounding their lives. The children in the documentary through the help of Briski gets a chance to join the boarding schools, others continue to completion, some dropout, while others are taken out by their parents. The district has been in existence and will continue existing. However, the children born in the red light district are innocent and deserve to be taken care of and shown the right direction.


Briski, Z., Kauffman, R., & McDowell, J. (2007). Born into brothels. Drakes Avenue Pictures Limited.

Rangan, P. (2011). Immaterial child labor: Media advocacy, autoethnography, and the case of Born into Brothels. Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies, 25(3 (75)), 143-177.

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