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.

Nearly lost in a fire, the film has been digitally restored, and a DCP was created through a collaboration between Sundance Institute, UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Academy Film Archive branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Stay after the screening for a conversation with filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman and subject Avijit Halder.

YEAR 2004

CATEGORY From the Collection

RUN TIME 85 min

LANGUAGE English and Bengali

SUBTITLES Yes with English subtitles


Executive Producer

Artist Bio

Ross Kauffman

Ross Kauffman is the Academy Award–winning director of the feature documentary Born into Brothels. In 2014, Kauffman co-directed E-Team, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and garnered Kauffman the Best Cinematography Award for a Documentary Feature. His latest documentary, TIGERLAND, debuted at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. He is in post-production on his next feature documentary, Trial by Fire.

Zana Briski

Zana Briski is the Academy Award–winning director of Born into Brothels. She founded Kids with Cameras, a nonprofit organization to empower marginalized children through learning the art of photography. Her current project, REVERENCE, is a traveling museum of large-scale photographic artworks, film, and music inspired by the praying mantis. REVERENCE will premiere in the EU Green Capital of Lisbon in 2020.