The Skimmer

Ever get that feeling after finishing a book or watching a movie that everything you just got out of it is completely pointless? Hopefully, with this new effort, that will happen less often. The Skimmer is a new project dedicated to scanning the latest (and not so latest) book and movie titles out there and bringing you our unbiased verdict whether or not their worth checking out. We go through the trouble so you don't have too. You may have heard of some of the things that we review, others may seem like something you would have never thought of picking up (but who knows, you may change your mind...) The writers who will contribute regularly to this ongoing project are:

Name: Nora Zaki
School: University of Florida
Major: Political Science and International Relations
Desired Profession: International Correspondent
A little about her: "I'm just a girl trying to do good in this world. I am tolerant and open to beliefs. I am half Egyptian from my father's side. My mother's side is Irish, German, Czechslovakian and a little Native American. I've got diversity in my soul! Know who you are in this life, or else you'll be just be wondering aimlessly. Don't care what other people think. Be patient. If you are patient, God will reward you. Never let go of family; they're all you got in this short life. Always pray-pray whenever,wherever and for whoever. Be a loving and caring person. Show respect. I strive, with God's help, to be honest, reliable, thoughtful, studious and am trying hard to be patient. Most importantly, I am Muslim and I love my religion."

Name: Aizya Ali
School: University of South Florida
Major: Nutrition
Desired Profession: Clinical Dietitian
A little about her: "I'm 18 years old and currently a sophomore attending the University of South Florida. My major is nutrition and I plan to be a clinical dietitian, Inshallah. I'm an avid reader, passionate writer, occasional baker, innate fashionista and spontaneous artist. I desire to improve our society's focus on diversity and acceptance in order to recognize similarities while celebrating differences.  The following qoute speaks to my world view: "If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life's exciting variety, not something to fear." - Gene Roddenberry""


Documentary FilmBorn into Brothels, 2004
In association with Think Films and HBO/Cinemax Documentary Films
Academy Award Winner – Best Documentary Feature 2004
Rated: R for some sequences of intense language
Duration: 1 hr. 23 minutes
Review by: Nora Zaki

     While the name doesn’t seem the most appealing, Born into Brothels appeals to the human heart. 

     Opening scenes begin with various shots of prostitutes and their children in Sonagachi, India, one of the notoriously named red-light districts in Calcutta.  It is one of the largest in Asia.
      Prostitutes live here, in the grimy, dirty, crammed housing with their children and husbands.  Empty plates of food with pieces of yellow rice with flies buzzing near them are stacked untidily on the street. Someone’s brown sandals are strewn next to the tin plates.  Thin curtains separate the children from the beds of their mothers.  When the mothers work, the children go outside to play.  Some fly kites.  Others pick on their siblings.  And eight lucky ones take pictures with cameras.

      The lives of these eight children, all around 10 years old, change when New York-based photographer Zana Brinski visits Sonagachi to document life in the brothels.  She gives each of them a camera and teaches them how to take pictures.  Most of these kids’ futures are bleak with little education and mothers and grandmothers who believe the girls will take their place ‘ in the line.’  Three boys, five girls.  Avijit, Gaur, Manik, Tapasi, Puja, Shanti, Kochi, and Suchitra.

    The children become enamored with taking pictures and all of them become very good at it.  Some of the pictures include the back of a mother before she goes to work, a bucket of water being poured out in the foreground and the beach in the background, the lights of India at night with one of the hands of the children appearing in the camera.  Zana Auntie, as the kids call her, takes the children to a zoo and a beach so they can have more photography experience. 

   Avijit becomes such a good photographer that he is able to go to the World Photo Conference in Amsterdam for children of developing countries who have an interest in photography.  Zana holds two art exhibits with the children’s paintings in New York to raise money for these children with their own artwork.  Keep in mind that Zana is no social worker or teacher.  But it is her persistence and personal touch with these children, which allows her to help them.  After these two exhibits, the children are able to attend one in India where they are the stars.  One of the boys, Avijit, is featured on India’s news with his reactions about the exhibition.

   Throughout the movie, Zana is able to get some of the children to attend boarding school where they are away from the lascivious environment they live in daily.  But, it’s not just the kids simply packing their bags and being admitted.  Most of the boarding schools in India refuse to accept children of sex workers.  Thankfully, none of the children are HIV-positive, which helps a lot with the admission process.  Zana goes through lots of bureaucratic ‘red tape’ and is able to convince some of the children’s parents to permit them to attend the boarding schools. 

   The children have a sense of humor and most never complain.  One of the girls, Puja, is so bold and feisty that she can take pictures of just about anyone on the streets.  These children are given hope at the end of the film.  It’s not some Westerner just handing them money. It’s a woman with a big heart teaching children art through photography and enabling them to use their skills to produce their pictures. 

   Perhaps the children were born into brothels, but they have blossomed into creative, talented and smart children with futures as potential doctors, engineers and photographers.  More importantly, they are not destined in a vicious cycle in which they must follow in the footsteps of their parents.

     Say Cheese to this heart-opening film. 

Verdict: Definitely worth checking out.