Rental Unit: "Born into Brothels" 

A handful of these children were fascinated with her cameras, begging her to teach them. Briski bought them all cameras and, in a project similar to one implemented in recent years by the Richmond group Art 180, let the children photograph their own lives and put the best pictures on display in art shows in India and New York.

Most amazing about this documentary is how normal these kids are. They are also painfully aware of the future that awaits them. Briski's film is unabashedly personal. Her subjects gradually become her wards, and she their savior. But can she save them? Take Avijit, whom all the children say is the best photographer. His pictures speak of a prodigy, and he is invited to Amsterdam for an international photography exhibition. His story in particular shows the hurdles these kids face. Not only is his passport repeatedly denied, but his mother is killed suddenly when her pimp decides to set her on fire. All the promise and hope drain away.

It would have been disappointing to see all this transpire from the unflinching lens of a strict documentarian. Briski bares her delicate struggle on camera, while neither hogging the spotlight nor painting herself as a hero. Her efforts are too often futile for that. — Wayne Melton


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