Filmmaker and photographer Zana Briski lived and worked in the red light district and began teaching photography to the children portrayed in this powerfully moving film.
Poverty and hopelessness are two main characters in this picture, but its vibrant colors and beautiful faces, especially those of the children, captured on so many of this film's cameras leaves a redeeming patina if not an outright shining glow to an otherwise morbid and depressing subject. The smiles, grins, laughs and joy-filled faces of these children bely the doomed future they inevitably face.
They are doomed because of a gross prejudice and bureaucratic indifference. Children of “criminals”, as sex workers in India, are considered, are seldom accepted at private schools—their only hope to step out of the multi-generational brothels business, or, as is painfully detailed in the film, unlikely even to be given a passport to travel abroad.
< Avijit, an 11-year-old exceptionally talented boy was 'discovered' by a New York photo rep following a gallery show and sale at Sotheby's in New York. He was invited to travel to Holland along with 13 other young photographers from around the world. Getting the boy a passport was a bureaucratic nightmare masterfully constructed in the film by Briski and co-director Ross Kaufman
During the making of the film Avijit's prostitute mother, herself the daughter of a prostitute, was murdered by her pimp—set afire in her kitchen. An 'accident' so common there would be no police investigation, the victim being 'criminal', and of no consequence. Except, as is dramatically shown on film, to Avijit, who for a time stopped going to school, stopped showing up for photography class and withdrew from his friends.
Avijit did finally get a passport and flew to icy Amsterdam to attend the World Press Photo exhibition, representing India and serving as a judge for the children's exhibit. Back in Calcutta, Avijit was later accepted into a boys school where he may be one of very few to break the cycle. Most of the other children who were able, by the film's close, to get into boarding schools have since left
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