13 April 2008

Born Into Brothels

I thought I was being an overly cynical jerk when I thought this was an oversimplified PSA for the National Endowment for the Arts, that it was just a way for privileged New Yorkers to pat themselves on the back for exposing themselves to the squalor of this world and taking comfort in the almighty healing powers of artistic expression. But then I talked to some people who had reactions even more negative than mine and I realized I was giving this film the benefit of all doubts.

Born into Brothels shows the world how children sired by Calcutta junkies and prostitutes are really just regular kids who have, gosh, immense creative talent! Look at all those fantastic photos they took with simple point and shoots! They are geniuses they are! And here we thought they were a pox on humanity. Whatever. I don't honestly believe these kids are trash, but the idea that meaningful salvation can come from a camera lens is a notion of Western bleeding hearts. There's one boy in here who's a real artist, but the rest of them are kids plain and simple, and no matter how fucking horrible it sounds their destiny is joining their mommies in the red light district and hoping for a too-soon chancre-ridden death. Too bad.

I'm well aware how much the filmmakers cared about these children and the work that they went through hounding boarding schools and shipping in photo supplies, but much of the film felt like an exercise in cause celebre, like a Save the Music campaign gone NPR. I don't believe the kids really took those pictures anyway -- they set the shots up, sure, but prints like that can't come without contrast filters and ritzy Leibovitz labs.

Yeah. You know, I am an asshole.

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