Sunday, January 22, 2006

Born Into Brothels

“It’s nearly impossible to photograph in the red light district”, begins Zana, a London-born photographer with degrees in religious studies whose first big project focused on infanticide in India. But children can take pictures there, so a few years later she started, an organization that tries to empower impoverished children by selling the photographs they take of their everyday lives.

These children grow up and play in the most hellish of circumstances. Their parents are prostitutes, drug users, uneducated, and extremely poor. Although they laugh and play innocently like children anywhere, you know it’s inevitable that they are only a few short years from joining the sad tragedy of the rest of their neighborhood in Calcutta, so Zana tries to intervene by giving them cameras and teaching them to photograph the world around them.
Through a couple of high-profile non profit fundraisers, she fights India’s terrible bureaucracy to enroll most of the children in good boarding schools where mostly they now are all doing well.

The street scenes of India, amid extreme crowding and terrible poverty, remind me of my week there a few years ago. I never met any children but I often wondered about the lives of the young beggars I saw everywhere. This documentary gave me a chance, I think, in some small way to meet some of them.

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