A deeply saddening and troubling documentary feature from directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, "Born Into Brothels" takes place in the red light district of Calcutta. The kids of the district quickly befriended Briski, and she came up with the idea of letting the kids of this area show the world through their eyes.
The kids take to the cameras quite quickly with Briski acting as their teacher, and the resulting photographs are often remarkably beautiful. The kids have their photographs in some exhibitions and having the cameras around gives them a chance to express themselves, show an artistic skill, have something to be proud of and have something to take their minds off their situation. In-between showing some of the photographs, the filmmakers look into the lives of these children, most of the girls having a tragic life of prostitution ahead of them.
Briski gets further involved with the children after living with them, pleading with boarding schools to take them so that they would be away from the dangers around their home. However, she gets the distinct and dismaying answer that no one will take children who are the children of the area's prostitutes. Despite the fact that the odds are stacked up against her whenever she tries to get help and find hope for a better for these kids, she keeps going, keeps knocking on doors.
Overall, this Academy Award-winning documentary provides a gritty, but inspirational and heartbreaking look at young lives trying to break out of poverty - in this case, with art as one of their keys to potentially finding their way out.
VIDEO: "Born Into Brothels" is presented by Thinkfilm in what appears to be the film's original 1.33:1 full-frame ratio. Shot on 35mm (according to the IMDB; I thought maybe digital video when I saw the movie), the presentation quality varies throughout. Much of the brighter, daytime footage looks perfectly fine, with pleasing sharpness and detail. Some of the night/low-light interior shots do show some noticable/very noticable grain, but I didn't find this to be very distracting. Colors looked rich and vivid (although they seemed slightly oversaturated in a couple of scenes) throughout most of the movie, as well.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack (Bengali w/English subtitles) is mostly "documentary audio" (dialogue-driven), with the exception of the score, which sounds quite full and crisp, and is nicely spread out across the front soundstage. Dialogue/interviews seemed very well-recorded.
EXTRAS: Director's commentary with Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski, Special video commentary of the kids watching selected scenes from the movie, deleted scenes, "Reconnecting" (a special reuniting some of the kids 3 years later), Charlie Rose show interview, Academy Award acceptance speech, production stills, trailer/trailer gallery, info about Kids with Cameras.
Final Thoughts: "Born Into Brothels" is a troubling, interesting film about a group of kids living in poverty who are introduced to photoraphy and try to use their skills in the art form as a potential means to help get them out. Thinkfilm's DVD edition provides very good audio/video quality, and a nice helping of supplements. Recommended.