And The Oscar For Most Exploitative Goes To...
Zana Briski / Ross Kaufmann
Since the 1970s, the United States of America has been heavily involved in the practice of offshoring. Expanding upon the principals of outsourcing and the division of labour, offshoring essentially involves the relocation of business processes to another country, where cheaper labour and factory costs or more refined worker skill sets make more economic sense to corporations and conglomerates. In the context of the new global economy, companies must now view nationality as a form of regionalism, and must adapt to the shrinking global village in order to survive. Originally confined to car factories being relocated to Mexico, the booming IT sector has led to computer industry offshoring practices in Asia. While there are many arguments to be made both for and against offshoring, Born into Brothels gives equal weight to both sides of the argument as it examines the issues involved in moving the kiddie rape industry to India.
Like most labour industries, kiddie rape is treated differently from culture to culture, country to country. Here in the Western world, we tend to rape our children metaphorically, by sexualizing them with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera-inspired wardrobes dressed up in “girl power” catchphrases, and exploiting them through focus-group tested marketing strategies. In Asia, they tend to go a more direct route, one that begins with street drugs and ends in retroviral cocktails, with a few stops at Violation Station along the way. So, in a way, it makes sense to outsource our kiddie rape needs to India, where labour costs are lower, and the workforce, having been trained from a younger age, is more skilled. Plus, if you’re really rich and brought something sharp, you might be able to take a souvenir.
An Oscar-winner from 2004, Born Into Brothels takes place in Calcutta’s horrific red light district, and follows a photographer teaching the children of the area how to take photographs. By getting them into photography, the hope is they’ll be able to get out of the brothels and drug dens of the area, or at the very least become professional pornographers. A couple of the kids take some fantastic photographs, and the efforts of documentarian Zana Briski are certainly noble, but it all feels so ineffectual in the face of the dim future these kids face. While none of them are prostitutes yet, the female students seem destined for it, and I feel as if perhaps teaching them a more practical skill might be a touch more effective than showing them how to take pretty pictures of Nate Fisher pissing in an alley. As a film, the documentary feels a little rushed and brief, but I did appreciate how it didn’t fall into the easy Discovery Channel traps of Voice of God narration and talking head interviews that seem to plague most American documentaries. Which, incidentally, are all made in Taiwan, anyway.