Born Into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids
directed by Zana Briski & Ross Kauffman
by Walter Chaw In a troubling moment about halfway through Born Into Brothels, co-directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman take the children of prostitutes in Calcutta's Red Light district on a field trip to the zoo and then, in a series of jarring juxtapositions, compare their plight to that of caged animals (elephants, big cats, camels, and, yep, a monkey behind bars). Paternalistic, no question, the picture crosses the line that separates documentation from activism into do-gooder theatre, with the filmmakers' half-measures--no matter how well-meant--sometimes striking as meddling. And unlike Steve James's revelatory Stevie, there's no existential examination of whether or not interference is actually more harmful to the subjects than it is useful.