Strange Reviews: Born Into Brothels

My wife has been a constant reader of Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog, Looking Closer, for a few years now. I generally don’t like reading movie reviews unless there is a specific movie I was confused over and wanted a bit more information. I’ve always considered myself a “movie” guy except for the last 10 years or so, since I’ve grown a bit more discerning on what I choose to view. Since reading JO’s blog my wife has been more interested in film and it’s concept as art, although she hasn’t increased her movie watching time. She got herself one of his books, “Through a Screen Darkly” and has been opened to Jeffrey’s beginning love of film and some of the many reasons he has loved many types of movies and his view of the decline of film as art. She has compared JO to Francis Schaeffer; as Francis sees art as creation and that relation to the creation and humanity’s relationship to the Creator, in the same way Jeffrey sees it in film. My opinion of him is changing because of the transformation I went through last year regarding legalism.

I read an article of his a couple of years ago that she urged me to peruse. I angrily disagreed with his point of view. I called him an idiot and thought he did not see the world as a “good” and responsible Christian should, he even linked and agreed with some liberal writer regarding the film. I don’t remember what film he reviewed, but it completely changed my opinion about him and I quickly disregarded anything she might say about any film he reviewed. That is, until she started telling me about his reviews on the Hobbit films and subsequently the LotR movies. I think the choice of going with a three film release for The Hobbit was Peter Jackson’s first mistake. I saw the first film and felt it was way over the top and it was just aiming for a prequel of LotR rather than the beautiful stand alone story Tolkien meant it to be. The second release was even more so, just a prequel. Although, a bit shamefully, I still went, and enjoyed them as they were: a slightly better than average action/fantasy epic.

Which brings me to a film that Jeffrey Overstreet reviews in his book, “Through a Screen Darkly”. My wife asked if I had ever seen Born Into Brothels, a documentary that JO really liked. She gave me a short description and last night I looked it up and found it so she/we could watch it. I don’t watch a lot of documentaries, except for the occasional nature ones. I’ve always felt that most of them had a particular agenda they wanted to sell, which usually went against my personal beliefs. But, I’m open to any documentary people recommend, especially my wife.

The film was about a female American photographer who went to Calcutta to photograph women in the Red Light district. She became interested in the children who were born into this lifestyle and were expected to become a part of it since they were born. She soon starts a photography class for a group of children and the film interviews and presents the photos they have taken. The way these children see their world is captivating and the woman begins to explore options for them to escape from the life they were born into. One of the more gifted children loses his mother in the progression of filming and you can see in his eyes and bearing that he has given up on life, he says that life is hopeless. The process of getting these children into a boarding seems a more difficult task than she has thought. These children are the offspring of criminals. The caste society they are in sees no way out for those who are born into a situation. This is a huge difference in our culture: we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to get out of situations we find ourselves in. In India, there is no way out. The woman, incredibly, is able to get almost all of them into a boarding school, and get the gifted boy to represent India in Amsterdam at a photography exhibition. The boarding school is strict in its standards of not involving yourself outside of the school even if there is a death in the family. The parents can pull them out anytime, but with no hope to get back in. The ending tells what happens to the children. All but one of them are taken out of the school, to be brought back into a life of prostitution.

It is a dark and depressing film, but tells of someone who sees this darkness and tries to get them out of it through art, through creativity. It makes you want to act, to do something yourself to bring hope into a world filled with hopelessness. Who cares for those who have no hope? If not us, then who?

In the Perspectives class, this is what we are learning. Go to places where the gospel needs to be heard and share it, share the hope. Sadly, so many choose or are forced back into a life of darkness rather than hope, but the Christian can and should offer hope that is willing to go back into the darkness and share that light. One of the things my wife says that Jeffrey laments over is the lack of review Christians have given the film. Sure, it has a lot of angry, horrible swearing in it, and much directed toward the children, but that is the culture we are witnessing. It is part of the darkness they are in. It is part of the drama that makes us want to act. Where are the type of films like this sold to Christians? Part of what we do as Christians is stay in our little part of the field of the world, cozy and comfortably together, why should we do that when we look at film? It is such a feel good thing for us. We either need to see the sufferings of Christ or feel good about what we just saw, feel justified about our lifestyle.

One scene that truly effected me was when the woman took them to the beach, probably something they’d never seen in their lives. With joy and shock they tromp through they cold waves, joyously photographing one another. I thought that it was such a false hope: that they would just have to go back to the Red Light district after such a grand time out. How can you enjoy anytime away from what is so dark, knowing you’ll just have to go back. I thought that is the way I feel many times. My work is so joyless and needlessly complex, that it depresses me, just the thought of having to go back no matter where I am. I thought that I live too much in the future, I need to embrace the now. I look back and think how careless life was and write about it, then think about the dim near future and get depressed. I need to focus on the (possibly) far future, when God will set all things right. I also need to remember not to be so thankless in what he has given me in such a supportive job. I see a film like this and know how good my life is, that I go to bed just glad that I have one, but know that there are people out there who need true hope, the hope of a future with God… forever, and if I have to live for a time like these people, if God calls me, then so be it. I just pray that I, and especially my family is ready, wherever, whenever He calls us.

Let us, as Christians, see the bigger world as we need to: a dark place with created beings who need love and hope as we all do. Let us embrace this type of film and open up the world. If you are 18 or older, watch this and see how it may affect you.


Posted on April 6, 2014, in Movie Reviews, Strange Reviews and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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