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Horrible unethical film that undermined kids lives while projecting white women as "iberator" (of brown kids from their brown moms)
This movie makes me cry, but not for the reasons the filmmakers intended. Briski and Kauffman represent the situation of sex workers' children in this poor Indian district in the most un-ethical and violent way possible -- by laying the blame at the heroic, unionized sex-worker moms that have managed to carve out a safe space for their families, under the kind of conditions that would beat any westerner down, and most reprehensibly, by using the families to raise themselves to be saints in the audiences' mind. In doing so they undermine the very children they supposedly want to help, and dupe Westerners whose only access to information like this is through mainstream /Oscar flicks. I second the advice of a viewer who urges audiences instead watch the film Tales of the Night Fairies, a more caring and truthful representation. Don't depend on my opinion here --- please paste into a search engine Born into Brothels, Praveen Swami, Seema Sirohi or Partha Banerjee to read incisive critique of the film by more knowledgeable folks - people who worked translating it, know the district, or report on the Indian Frontline's investigation of the filmmakers unethical behavior.
The fact that the Sonagachi Red Light District where Briski et al filmed is not only the focus of MANY hardworking aid organizations (which Briski edits out, one can only assume to portray herself as the only bright shining angel) but also a case studied globally for its successes preventing HIV infection, for how women established workers cooperatives .....to collectively ensure their rights and safety (instead of being controlled by pimps), and strict community rules not to force anyone into prostitution... will astonish viewers who have seen the film. There is no way the filmmakers could not know this, or that these women began a trade union that has grown to 60,000 members far beyond this small district. In fact, the filmmakers treat these women as the cause of the children's problems, and recommend removal of the children from their families! That Briski is British, thus from India's the former colonial power, and that she recommends a removal policy without realizing that it repeats colonial violence done in other British colonies (such as the forcible kidnapping of aborigine children in Australia in 1911 by whiter skinned people who could not imagine indigenous people capable of bringing up children) makes me wonder if it might not be BRISKI, rather than the brothel kids, who has been neglected and denied a proper education.
Viewers need to know that an investigation by the Indian media Frontline showed that the film's most fundamental assumptions were false, particularly Briski's assertion that the children no education, or very little before she sent them to boarding school. In fact, ALL THE KIDS WERE GOING TO SCHOOL WHEN THE DOCUMENTARY WAS BEING MADE! It is a testament to Briski's own ignorance and misuse of rich white power that none of the cases in which she "removed" kids to boarding school have resulted in success or continuation. This is because the kids know what the sadly uneducated Briski cannot see, that their families are more than props in a gringa film. That Briski dupes Western audiences into misunderstanding the real issues in India's brothels, that she bathes in the limelight and accepts Academy Awards built on this exploitation, that she presents unethical hidden camera footage taken without these poor women's consent, that she so sneakily betrays these people who had nothing, but generously shared every single intimate part of their lives with this "savior" should alert us that somewhere, in England, children are growing up like Briski --- without being given the basic historical knowledge they so desperately need.
Lets make a film about Briski's home town, use hidden cameras to show her friends in the worst light, and give it Bollywood's biggest award so we can finally remove poor rich white filmmakers from their neglectful colonialist parents, and give them to caring Calcuttans who will see that they receive the uncensored education they so desperately need.
In all seriousness: This "research" would never have survived an ethics review board investigation, and suggests that we demand stronger accountability and oversight of filmmakers to ensure ethical treatment of their subjects, especially in places where people may not have access to enforcing such accountability.
A better use for this film, and one that I use in my undergraduate classes, is to have students FIRST read Partha Banerjee's letter to the American Film Academy about the film's lack of ethics, and then watch BitB. Students marvel that the Oscar ignored his plea and awarded this film! I'll keep a DVD of this film in my college collection of ethnocentric diatribe classics such as "Warrior Marks" and "Not without my daughter" (apologies to Gidget). Like those films it embodies Gayatri Spivack's observation that so much of what passes as Western humanitarianism is less about helping victims and more about the image of "White men saving brown women from brown men" (in this case White women "saving" brown kids from brown women).
Please, lets set up a humanitarian fund to provide history classes to the poor, abused children of Britain that, like Briski, are at risk of becoming narcissistic missionary filmmakers that exploit the third world. They should not be doomed to repeat the colonial mistakes of the past, simply because they have not listened well in history class.
Chile, la memoria obstinada (1997)
Fascinating look at the politics of memory and spellbinding story of Chile
Wow I had to write in when I read the last review. Saying this movie is a one-sided view of Allende's government is a bit like saying Schindler's List isn't critical enough of Jews during WWII. Its just NOT what the movie is about -- its about how memory can do things politically - both through its repression (keeping a whole generation of Chilean kids in the dark about Pinochet) and its revelation. I saw this in a public theater during a Latin American film festival and I've never seen such an enormous shared emotional reaction to a documentary. The scenes where Guzman (director) shows his earlier film, Batalla de Chile, to young Chileans whose parents told them that Allende was just a stupid commie -- when these kids see for themselves what really happened for the first time, and Guzman focuses the lens on the reactions on their faces - its just unforgettable. Rent it -- you wont regret it.