2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: BORN INTO BROTHELS

BORN INTO BROTHELS | Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman capture several children of prostitutes living in Calcutta as they learn photography.

Festival Section:
From the Collection

Sundance Program Description:

Directors Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman chronicle the amazing transformation of several children growing up in Calcutta’s red-light district. Briski, a professional photographer living in and documenting the brothels, is inspired by the children’s curiosity with her camera and gives them photography lessons and cameras of their own, igniting the latent spark of artistic creativity within them. The cameras empower them to document and share their world, and their photographs are a testimony to the power of the indelible creative spirit.

BORN INTO BROTHELS received a Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant, was supported by the Documentary Composers Lab, and premiered at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Documentary Audience Award. The film, which highlights the immensely restorative, empowering, and liberating nature of art, went on to win an Academy Award for Documentary Feature in 2005.

Some Background:


  • Zana Briski

    Briski is an acclaimed photographer and the founder of nonprofit Kids with Cameras, which empowers marginalized children by teaching them photography. In addition to the Oscar, she won an Emmy, Spirit, and IDA Award, among other accolades, for BROTHELS, on which she also served as a cinematographer.


  • Ross Kauffman
    Past Sundance docs:

    TIGERLAND (2019)
    E-TEAM (2014)

    In addition to his awards for BROTHELS, Kauffman went on to be Emmy nominated for E-TEAM, which also picked up a cinematography award at Sundance. He also served as a cinematographer on BROTHELS.

Executive Producer:


  • Nancy Baker
    Past Sundance docs:

    QUEST FOR HONOR (2009, consulting editor)
    HARLAN COUNTY USA (2005, restored version)
    CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS (2003, creative consultant)
    ON THE ROPES (1999)
    H-2 WORKER (1990)
    STREETWISE (1985)

Why You Should Watch:
Sundance’s From the Collection section annually provides audiences with an opportunity to see a classic past selection, restored, and with the presence of the filmmakers. Briski, Kauffman, and one of their film’s subjects, will participate in a conversation after this special screening as they revisit their film 16 years later.

More Info:
For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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