It was Martin Luther King Jr. who said "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict". You must be wondering how is this quote relevant to this movie. Let me explain.
Soon after I saw the movie, I had a discussion with one of my friends who is also a documentary film-maker. She disliked the movie (primarily the second half) for the reason that the filmmaker got too involved in the lives of the characters. She felt that Zana Briski tried to aggrandize herself as a saviour of sorts.
While I see her view point, I continue to question the approach of staying inert while there is so much you can do to help. That is probably where this MLK quote becomes relevant. Also it would be sad to see yet another Kevin Carter.
Back to the topic at hand. The movie won the Oscar for the Best Documentary last year. The movie is dear to me for a multitude of reasons. The fact that it is shot in India, the place I was born and spent 22 years of life, makes it special for me. Probably more importantly, it illustrates the harsh realities that India faces. While the educated upper middle-class is riding the crest of economic growth, there is this lower strata of society which is being left behind. The ever widening gulf between them is alarming to say the least. And the sad part is very few people really care.
This is the story of how Ms Briski befriended a group of children while living in the red light district of Calcutta. She goes on to get them interested in photography by giving them simple point and shoot cameras. It follows this beautiful journey where one of the really talented kids gets to attend a photography conference in Amsterdam.
I have been part of a mentoring program similar to Big Brothers and Big Sisters for over two years now. So I very well understand how much of difference it can make in the lives of kids from tough backgrounds. All these kids need are some positives to focus on. It makes us realize the true value of the things we take for granted.
Going back to my friend's comment about Zana Briski being there 'too much' in the movie, I say this. I too get similar criticism because I always talk about the non-profits I am involved with. Some people feel that I am tooting my own horn. My usual reply is "If my talking about these non-profits, gets atleast one or two people interested to find out more and get involved, then I really don't care of what other people think of me".
In case you are still wondering how I felt about the movie, I own the DVD and the book.
My rating: 5/5