'Born into Brothels', Understanding and Sympathy

Review of ‘Born into brothels’ Movie
This movie is
Available Here

Born into brothels is a movie about seven children who have ages ranged from 9 to 15 years and live in brothels at the red light district in Calcutta, India.
Zana Briski, a western woman who first went to India in 1995, and three years later she began living with prostitutes in order to photograph them because as she thought that she could not do it as a visitor, she had have to stay with them, live with them and understand their lives. Living in that community Miss Briski was gradually approaching children and she became captivated by the children she met there and ended up getting personally involved in their lives.
Broadly speaking, the documentary proceeds two main tracks related to Miss Briski. One track is about Miss Briski’s decision to give the children cameras (and instruction on how to use them) so that they can take pictures of the world around them. The other track is about her attempts to place the children in boarding schools so they might eventually escape their inevitable destinies - girls are forced into prostitution at ages as young as fourteen and boys are led into lives of crime.
The film showed scenes of a third-world community in which people live in chaos; they behave meanly and unkindly towards others. According Gour (one of the children in the movie): “Nobody lives as filthily as we do in our city”. That is a community in which there are vulgar women and useless, lay-about men, the area is inhabited by lots of kids, the generally fatherless sprigs of little-educated women who fully expect their daughters to join (or replace) them "onto the line" in their early teens.
Through the movie emphasizes Briski’s endeavours in helping children to get a better life. She was facing many problems from the children’s parents and guardians as well as from dealing with India's monumental bureaucracy which has many chaotic government agencies. With all her efforts, she helped the children to go to boarding schools. But eventually, there were only a few of them still studying, the rest were returned to their old lives.
My first impression from watching film “born into brothels” was the poor situation of the children. They are very pitiable. Unfortunately, they were born into families in which their parents are uneducated people and don’t have right livelihood. Thus, they don’t take care of and nurture their children reasonably. The community in which the children were living is benighted and squalid. This is an issue needs to be concerned about. People in that community usually use bad words and speak mean things in their communication. They behave towards others not well, in general. This is a factor more or less influenced children’s personality.
Although the children were born into such disadvantaged setting, their childish characteristics were not lost. They still had plain favorites such as flying kite, painting, etc. And a common among them was that they all wanted to go to school. They want to learn and want to find a better life. This is clearly demonstrated when they were come to Zana’s class, they were very excited and very happy at her class.
Another issue from the film which made me so sympathetic with the children is that they had to work from very young age. They were forced to do works when they are not strong to do them such as washing dishes, carrying water, and so on. In spite of being small children, they had deep thoughts such as they want to photograph in order to picture lives around them, to express their interests as well as their hopes, their thoughts. And especially, they want to have a happy life, no matter poor or rich.
Western woman, Miss Zana Briski, in the movie is really a respectable person. She left her convenient life in a developed country in order to come and live at such uncomfortable community and try to help children and women behind closed doors. She has done in any way she can to help them. She taught the children, brought happiness to them, and helped them to go to school, helped them to get rid of their benighted area. She was not discouraged while facing many problems from the children’s families and from issues related to procedures of application for school, for passport, etc. With all her efforts, she brought six of eight children to boarding schools. Unfortunately, at the end of the movie there were only three of them still studying, the rest came back their old lives.
Besides, this documentary movie brought to us many scenes which present disorder and dusty houses as well as unwholesome activities behind closed doors of the brothels. These things indicated that beside modern places, beside very bright and beautiful houses and luxurious villas, there are many houses in bad conditions in which there are many wretched people living. This is a dark side of Indian society and other developing countries as well. It needs more effort of authority people as well as society to help them out of that pitiable situation.
The movie also refers to personal and collective responsibility in community, particularly responsibility to compelling issues. Each person as well as collective has to be aware of their responsibility to their own activities, social issues and to others. We should not live only for ourselves. We must be aware of one important thing that we can not live without the others, we can not live isolated far from society. One is a cell of entire body of society. Hence, one must care about the community in which one is living. In the movie, the film maker highlighted irresponsibility of collective to issues of the children. Miss Briski tried to bring the children to schools in order that the children can be educated and can change their destiny, but she was facing not few problems from the children’s families and from outside, especially in administrative procedures. There are many inconvenient things in administrative system in Indian society. For a foreign person, this problem is more difficult. For example, they required many unnecessary papers and procedures and took too long time than usual in other countries.
Moreover, this movie presented the transformative power of art. Through art activities Miss. Briski approached children and people in brothels; through art activities she helped them to understand real society, brought them to zoo and sea beach in order to open their eyes, to give them new thoughts and new aspects of reality from which they can be more positive to live, their ambitions and hopes can be emerged and have more possibility to become real. And also from art she helped the children to express their abilities, their thoughts as well as their viewpoints to their surroundings. From this we can recognize that art have special potential in communication as well as in rehabilitation, especially to psychological issues.
One more things, according to me, the movie highlighted is the discrimination and right of education in Red light district in particular and in Indian society in general. Discrimination on gender, class and race are big and long historical issues in Indian society. Until modern time these issues are still existing in this nation. These issues result in many unfair problems such as large number of uneducated people and too many poor people in society. Although Indian people have carried out many solutions, these problems have not changed much. To solve these problems, one of effective and primary solutions is originated from education. We can utilize education as a means to change inherent thoughts of discriminations. Through education, educated people can have more opportunities to change their destiny, to have good lives as well.
Last but not least, I want to mention about the prostitutes. Do they all have bad personality? Are they blamable people and should we keep far away from them, behave unkindly towards them? As what the film displayed, most of the sex-workers are forced to become a prostitute. They were become sex-workers by force from their family, from their guardians. Some of them became sex-workers because in that situation they don’t have any opportunities to choose other works for their livelihood. There are only few people became prostitutes by their own desires. If girl children in those brothels grow up without education they would be forced to become sex-workers, even they are force to do so at very young ages. For instance, there is a woman’s statement with a small girl in the movie that: “she will be onto the line soon”. They hence are more pitiable than blamable. We should sympathize with them and help them out of their unacceptable works. In fact many of them wanted to get out of their bad situations, but external society did not give them any opportunities to do so. This was illustrated clearly in one statement of a principal of a school when Miss Briski came and discussed with her on education for the children in the film that: “No one will take them”. What a merciless statement it is! Perhaps this is not her personal thinking; it is a common thought in Indian society. That is why those brothels existing and developing in this nation. It is the time for Indian authorities and international organizations carry out strong solutions for these issues to help unfortunate people out of their bad situations.
This film has given a crucial lesson for researcher in research methods, particularly in qualitative research, that researcher have to be involved the situation in which their topic is relevant to. This is a valuable lesson from Miss Zana experience, she stated that: “I knew I couldn’t do it as a visitor. I wanted to live with them, stay with them and understand their lives”. Thus, qualitative researchers want to study any issue they have to understand the settings of the issue, understand situation from which issue emerged and think of them with both subjective and objective aspects, not only subjective. In other words, qualitative researchers want to study an issue, they have to be involved in the situation of the issue, without this they can not have a correct analysis of their collected data and can not have right interpretations.
Art has special power in transformation and rehabilitation of psychological issues so that as psychologists we need to learn how to utilize possibility of art in our works in order to improve productiveness in therapy programs as well as in social works.
The film appealed to our responsibility for our society. There are many compelling issues existing in our community, around us, which need our concern, we can not live irresponsibly. Especially, educator and authorities need to take care of these. Education is a productive means to help unfortunate people get out of their poor situations, so that right of education needs to be given to everyone in society.
Finally, we should sympathize with unfortunate people, particularly prostitutes in this movie, and should not blame them, should not view them as depraved people and keep away from them. They are also victims of unjustified society, victims of discriminations. And they are suffering so much in their life. We should not put more burdens on their shoulders. Likewise, we should open our mind to accept sex-workers’ children into schools so that they can be educated and whereby they can get out of their bad conditions.
- Minh Nguyen -

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