Maybe you’ve seen the documentary film, Born Into Brothels. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes. When it was released in 2005, the film by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The film’s producer, Geralyn Dreyfous, was kind enough to write an endorsement for my book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India. Geralyn said, “Weight of Silence makes visible children who remain invisible to the rest of the world and reminds us of each child’s right to dream out loud and in color.”
It’s been 7 years since Born into Brothels was made, and many of the children have gone on to pursue their dreams. One of them, Avijit Halder, himself aspires to be a filmmaker. And he’s raising money to fund his project, Before The Sun. Now a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Avijit has come full circle and is making his own film.
Geralyn Dreyfous wrote to me about Afijit:
Avijit Halder came into my life as a subject in one of the first films I executive produced called BORN INTO BROTHELS. He was a young determined 12 year old determined to get an education and pursue his dreams of being an artist. Several years later he came to Salt Lake City to visit and was offered a scholarship at a local day school Rowland Hall Saint Marks and then landed a scholarship to the Tisch School at NYU, majoring in filmmaking.
Today he is worried about starting his senior thesis, graduating and finding a job in a city he has come to love. He is a remarkable young man. Fearless and not afraid to try new things, Avijit will make his mark in the world as a photographer and filmmaker.
Before the Sun is an undergraduate thesis short film, written and directed by Avijit. It is a visual poetry set in the colorful neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens – a place where languages, beliefs, and traditions are piled on top of one another and identity is easily erased – it is the story of three immigrants, imprisoned in their mundane lives.
The three strangers – a Mexican teenage boy, an old Russian man, and a middle aged Bangladeshi housewife – slowly become entangled in a web of inevitability. In their daily lives they intersect one another, and through silent observations, hidden enigmatic bonds are formed.
They have never met one another nor they communicated in any way. Yet everyday expectations are formed as they long for one another. What will happen to these relationships when life takes its toll, shattering it’s fragile existence?
Born into humble beginnings in Calcutta, India, if there’s one person who’s been to the ends of the earth to do what he loves, it’s Avijit, one of the children documented in Born Into Brothels. The documentary’s prestigious Kids With Cameras Program and the amazing Geralyn Dreyfous helped him follow his dreams and his art, and he’s spent the past four years learning every aspect of filmmaking.
Here is what Avijit says about his film:
As an immigrant living in America, I know how hard it is to adapt, and to suppress feelings of nostalgia. When I first arrived to this country, it was easy because everything was so new and exciting; but after a while I began to feel isolated. I missed everything about Kolkata, my family, my friends; but most of all the feeling of being understood/ the feeling of belonging.
This film is important to me because I believe that it gives a personal voice to immigrants living in America. Many people in this country have misconceptions about immigrants. Some believe we are the cause of many problems, while others just feel pity for us; but we are never accepted for who we are .
From experience I would say most of us are here to pursue the ‘American Dream’, and to better our condition. We sacrifice a life at home, but try to re-create a new home in America. This film will give a glimpse inside the mind of immigrants.