Born into Brothels (2004) begins with a fitting image of moths fluttering around a single bulb, that hangs next to a grimy wall. It is a close up that gives the viewer a strong sense of what lies in the background: heat, dirt and hopelessness. This is Kolkata (Calcutta), India.
A little girl's large brown eyes are faded into an overhead scene of the red light district. Men with hard and bitter eyes walk by hopeful looking women. A little girl's voice says, "The men who enter our building are not so good. They are drunk. They come inside and shout and swear. The women ask me, 'When are you going to join the line?' "
The girl looks to be no more than 10. "They say it won't be long," she says. Black, white and gray images are shown of women hiding their faces. Huddled together, as if lost sheep who know they've been sold for market. Even from the images one can tell that none of them seem like they ever wanted it this way, but so it has become.
"The brothels are filled with children, they are everywhere," says Zana Briski, one of the film's producers, who lived in the brothels to more effectively photograph their inhabitants. And the kids took to Zana. They loved playing with her camera and taking pictures of her. They loved learning with images. There are several children that Briski focuses on for her work: Kochi, Shanti, Avijit, Suchitra, Manik, Gour and Puja.
Kochi squats and cleans a pot with some sort of slime green colored soapy substance. Her job is to clean for a little money. She mops twice a day and runs errands for the prostitutes up to about 11 at night. If they want curry or rice, she must give it to them. She wonders what she could become if she got an education.
Some of the prostitutes are married. But it does not seem that their husbands pool in any sustainable income, and drug and alcohol addictions are fairly prevalent. Sex is the reason any one of them eats. Prostitutes shout at each other as to who is the bigger whore while the children are given baths.
The bitterness and shame is constant, and when the youths who are all fairly good looking, straight postured kids, enter the streets to take pictures, they are not spoken to as children. They are spoken to as the offspring of prostitutes. Grown adults will bully them about where they supposedly really got their cameras from. When the women are so overwhelmed by social pressures and by the sadness of their own lives, it might be hard for them to be adults for their own children and protect them as they should, as they are so often fending for themselves.
Briski with her camera, is a huge relief to the community's kids. She works hard to get them into boarding schools. The paperwork to do so seems a never-ending ordeal that never really makes sense but somehow gets done. In the end and in real life, some of the children make it out of the world of prostitution. Some do not.
By Sarah Bahl
In gauging the place of America on the world's stage Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State during the Clinton administration, pressed strongly for, "diplomacy with world powers" rather than solely "chest thumping" military intervention. She held the Bush administration before the audience with an angry sense of disdain, and described the administration's work as, reckless.
Albright came to the United States in 1948, and her eyes would light up in describing the world of her youth under Harry Truman. Currently, she greatly supports the work of the Center for American Progress in Washington D.C., where her speech was held. She describes it as, "an institution that is meant to keep America strong and just." And that the purpose is the same as when it was created in 2003: "to bring Americans together on behalf of our policies."
She says that though there are partisan lines, personal friendships between Republicans and Democrats are possible for she was friends with the late Jesse Helms, and though they, "disagreed on pretty much everything grew to trust and respect each other."
There was an overhead view that the Bush administration greatly damaged the world's perception of the United States and there is now a growing skepticism of U.S. involvement in other country's affairs. She drew back to the days of Presidents Harry Truman and Franklin D. Roosevelt and encouraged that others wanting to be progressives should look toward the framework of their policies as guidance for the future.
"President Obama," she went on to say, "inherited an incredible mess." She credited Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton with restoring diplomacy and on a broader level sanctioned, "people to people ties in global engagements."
She turned back to, "the Iraq effect," which she states created, "the creeping sense that America can do little in the world." And that proper use of "economics must be upheld," in foreign policy.
Albright continued with speaking about her more personal moments and how she remembers the date of August 7th, 1998 as the most harrowing of her career, because it was the day attacks on the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 122 people and injured 5,000. She recalls accompanying the bodies of 10 of her colleagues over the Atlantic ocean for a ceremony at Andrews Air Force Base.
And in what seemed to be an indirect reference in creating adequate policies to react to attacks on American soil, Albright referred to Truman, saying that he, "never hesitated to defend America but he also...had the wisdom to lead in a way that attracted international support. He was determined to create a world where rules have real meaning."
For the 2016 election Albright thinks we must learn from the past, and "show the country we can lead with intelligence, conviction and strength." She warned against demagoguery and in answer to an audience question said, "there is no way to exist in the 21st Century without a multilateral approach," to foreign policy and politics.
By Sarah Bahl