Born Into Brothels Rhetorical Analysis

Rhetorical Analysis of Born into Brothels In Calcutta’s red light district, several children are trying to get by in brothels. Their mothers are prostitutes and their fathers are gone, unreliable or unknown. Zana Briski journeys to Calcutta to photograph the lives of the prostitutes, and she ends up teaching their children about cameras and photography. Briski finds that the kids have true potential, not only in their photography but in their lives. She tries as hard as she can to find better futures for them. Born into Brothels tells this story.

The film uses contrast, appeals to pathos and use of visuals to convey the tragedy of the children’s every day, and also the hope for their future to those who have no idea about their situation. Born into Brothels is fast-paced. It goes from scenes of the kids running around photographing the shore of a beach, to shots of their mothers swearing heavily at each other. There are busy, chaotic street scenes where you can see the kids smiling and laughing, and then the next minute the viewer sees the dirty, grimy interior of their homes. Between these scenes, there are really no transitions.

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The contrast is striking. The film makers use this to their advantage to define what life is really like for the children. They go out to take pictures with “Zana Auntie”, and the next minute they are back in the brothels serving their parents. There is no sweet transition for them, no musical que, no narration to prepare them. The contrast used in the movie models the contrast of their lives. With the use of this technique, the film makers maximize the enormity of both the chance the children have to get out and photograph, and the state of the place they call home.

The contrast in Born into Brothels sheds light on the common juxtaposition of opportunity and helplessness in the children’s lives. While it is clear that the film makers use contrast to display the equal contrast of the children’s lives, sometimes the effect can be confusing. The lack of transitions can leave the audience disoriented, and then the beginning of a new scene is missed because everyone watching is still focused on the previous scene. The film makers probably thought this would be a good effect, to clarify the confusion in the children’s lives, but it actually makes the film hard to follow at times.

The film also appeals to pathos.

The very first thing shown in the movie is a bare lightbulb surrounded by swarming bugs. Just the sight of this induces a squirm. The film makers use this image to display the squalor of the brothels and hint that no one should have to live somewhere with that. Soon after that clip, the children begin to talk. They do not speak English so their words are conveyed with subtitles, but it makes their explanation even more powerful.

Young voices talk about their duties, their chores, their mothers. They use this phrase, “the line” — meaning the group of women who are prostitutes.

They say that they are scared of the line. They say they’re afraid they’ll never get out. They say that they wish they could bring each other out.

All of this is highly emotional. The film makers evoke sympathetic emotion and sometimes even fear in the audience. It is very powerful to hear the kids talk about such serious things, things that nine, ten, eleven year olds should not even know about, let alone have to think about. Later, there are scenes that show mothers yelling at each other, using incredibly vulgar language. These clips are used to articulate how irresponsible the mothers are.

Why should the children have to hear that? What is this exposure doing to them? By using this footage, the film makers appeal to pathos which exposes the raw lives of the children from Calcutta’s red light district.

Finally, Born into Brothels uses visuals show how these children have potential. Several times the film shows the actual photographs taken by the kids. This allows the audience to see Calcutta through their eyes. We are able to see things that are worth photographing from people who grew up on those streets. As an outsider, everything there would seem unusual, so it’s almost surprising which scenes they capture.

The simplicity of the way they see a place that must be so complicated for them.

It is this place they want to leave, they have to leave — but at the same time, it is their only home. Also, it’s almost starling how good the pictures are. They are very true and raw, and each one tells its own story. The film shows these photographs to prove that these kids have real potential. They are smart and creative and caring. This film shows that anyone from anywhere can be somebody.

The use of this strategy is effective because of our expectations that the children’s photographs will be mediocre.

It is sad that we automatically assume that they are not talented, and the film effectively disproves that theory. Born into Brothels uses contrast, pathos and photographs to illustrate a struggle to find children a better future and the fact that they have a lot of potential even though they come from such a violent beginning. The use of these rhetorical strategies is, for the most part, effective, although the blatant contrast can be bewildering. The audience is given a definition of the children’s lives, and clips are used that leave the audience feeling sympathetic, but also hopeful.

The photographs taken by the children effectively reveal their surprising talent, and prove that potential lives everywhere. The movie ends with short summaries of what happened to the children, and unfortunately there are very few true success stories. Still, the tone of the movie and the use of the children’s photographs leave a hopeful taste in the air. Born into Brothels shows us that everyone should have hope, no matter who they are or where they come from, and that beauty can be found even in the world’s darkest corners.