Born in the Brothels is a film that depicts the lives of Indian children of the Red Light District. A woman initially set out to do a photography project on the area, but while living and working there, she grew incredibly close to the children (who are intelligent and wanting to learn) and gave them all photography lessons. Her film shows the poverty and despair of the district along with the bad living conditions-not only physically but mentally: the children were yelled at, hit and kicked, called terrible and derogatory names, and some were taken care of by grandparents because their father/mother would have sold them. But the photography lessons and the love that this woman offered was an outlet of hope for the children-it made them happy and gave them hope. This woman did everything in her power to secure them from their current future (prostitution) by trying to get them into schools-she even did exhibitions of their photography to raise money for them. The process was long, difficult, and with many obstacles. In the end, for many, it didn’t work out-their parents either pulled them from the school or they left on their own accord. Yet some, thankfully, remain at the schools their teacher secured for them.
Connection of the experience to other course materials/experiences
Certain photographers (like Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine) believe that their work can change conditions, that their photographs can call people to action, to rally a cause. Viewers respond so well to photography because its realistic-it’s not an image from someone’s head (which can still be very powerful), but it’s a representation of reality (so it holds more authority). Viewers connect even stronger with photographs of people because of the common human bond of suffering. When we look into their eyes, we can empathize with them; we can see their pain and we relate it with experiences we’ve had. The children in this film get that. When the one little boy went to the photography exhibition in the Netherlands, he was talking to a group of children about a particular picture (this picture was not his). He was saying how the photo was sad, but that it needed to be taken because people needed to understand. He too wanted to take pictures to show people how he lived, what his life was like; even though it was sad, it was the way it was, and people needed to understand that. Photography is one of the ways which connects the two worlds together.
Reflection on the experience (new learning, changed perspectives, clarification of understanding…i.e., how your mind has changed or remained the same).
As powerful as the film was on Wednesday, I connected more strongly with this documentary. This film was the up close and personal lives of children-emphasis on the word children. Adults have more control over their lives. Children are supposed to be taken care of; they don’t have experience to rely on for advice, and if they have no one to teach them, how are they supposed to know what to do? Yet, even though it seemed they had no one to show them, they figured stuff out. They took care of each other; one boy said he wished he could take his friend away from this place so she wouldn’t have to live that life, another said even though his father was a druggie whom no one respected and who his mother left that he still tried to love him a little. The environment that these kids were forced to deal with is terribly sad. What shocked me is that even when given the opportunity for improvement, it didn’t seem like many of these parents really cared about their children’s future. Even though the woman was there doing everything in her power for them, they just wanted them to join the line. I don’t understand why. Even the kids weren’t all incredibly excited, which is more understandable, because they perhaps didn’t realize all that was at stake (how can a 10 year-old truly understand what a being a prostitute would truly entail?), what they would’ve been getting themselves into and what they could potentially have instead-especially when the people they had lived with their whole life (parents) were against the idea. Change is scary.
The out look that these kids had on life was so sad. One child said, “there is nothing called hope in my future.” Another said that even if he were poor, he would still be happy, because you just have to accept life as sad. There is truth in that statement; life is sad, life can be terribly depressing, everything can go wrong all the time. But there is good in this world. There are good people who try to do good things. Even through all the bad, you have to find the good and enjoy it (the photography and the woman who cared for them, the joy and the excitement of the beach and the zoo). Every life does have value and meaning, no matter how many people tell you that you’re worthless. What gives every life this value and meaning is the love of Christ. He loved each one of us so much he died for us, and that gives hope. But as a child growing up in the brothels of India, the saving message of salvation can’t be easy to come by.
There is so much work to be done, it’s overwhelming. This was a small group of children, less than a dozen, in one brothel on one street in one district in one country. But even though it seems impossible, something is better than nothing, we can not simply stand by and just let things happen. Even small steps can make the most profound impact-you can’t help everybody, but you can help somebody. For the children this woman did help, for the children who wanted to go to school, to learn, and do something with their life away from the pain that they were born into, she has saved their lives-and that’s huge.