|Rediff India Abroad Home | All the sections|
Kolkata-based film wins Oscar!
Arthur J Pais | February 28, 2005 11:31 IST
Acclaimed photographer Zana Briski, whose film Born Into Brothels about her work with the children of Kolkata prostitutes won the best documentary Oscar, will soon see her inspiring film expand from its current screen count (about 40) to hundreds of screens across North America and Europe.
The Oscar nomination has also brought controversy to the film. The British Broadcasting Corporation recently quoted Partha Banerjee, who interpreted for the Bengali-speaking children and English-speaking filmmakers, complaining there were 'ethical and stylistic' problems with the documentary.
He also wrote to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organiser of the Oscars, asserting the experience made the children's lives 'worse,' not better.
About a dozen children were taught to take pictures by Briski; some stayed with her program, a few quit. Banerjee also wondered why the film should be considered a documentary as it used fictional shots.
Briski has said her film told nothing but the truth, and that Ross Kauffman and she told the success stories as well as the failures. "It is evident throughout the film how desperate I felt from time to time because I could help only a few children," she had said in an earlier interview.
The modestly successful film, which has been on a slow expansion plan till now, had formidable challengers, especially in Super Size Me, a comedy against fast food chains. The film has grossed $10 million across America.
Briski's film, directed with her former boyfriend Ross Kauffman, has grossed an encouraging $700,000 in 12 weeks in North America. It is showing in about 40 theatres. It could double its theatre count on March 4. In two weeks, it may reach $1 million. But it is unlikely it will be seen in India.
Three months ago, Briski told rediff.com in New York that even if the film were to win an Oscar, she would not want it to be seen in India except at film festivals because she had promised to protect the identities of the prostitutes from police and politicians.
She also said the proceeds from the film would be used to set up a school for the prostitutes' children.
One of the moving sequences in her documentary shows her fight to have the children enrolled in a good school.
The more she thought about the problem, Briski said the more she was convinced it was important to run a special school right from scratch.
And if the Indian model is successful, she wants to build a similar school for the orphans of violence in Israeli and Palestinian territories, she said.
The film, which was made for about $100,000, could now end its worldwide run with about $4 million, thanks to the Oscar.
Though it won plaudits and awards at numerous film festivals, only after it was nominated for the Oscar did it see its box-office rise. Briski also tries to sell photographs taken by the children at theatres showing the film.
She has raised almost $90,000 by selling prints of the children's photographs. "All the money that comes from the sale will be used for the children's education," she said.