We Are Foot Soldiers, Roxie Cinema, 2PM
9th Biennial San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film and Arts
We Are Foot Soldiers
Directors: Debolina Dutta and Oishik Sircar
26 minutes, 2011, Kolkata, India
down to see review by son of a Festival producer)
What does sex work have to do with child rights? In this mid-length
documentary young activists of Amra Padatik (literally translates
from the Bengali as “We are foot soldiers”), an
organization formed by the children of sex workers in India,
relate the challenges, the sacrifices and the gifts of being
children of sex workers in Kolkata’s Sonogachi red light
district. The Film journeys through the lives of six Amra Padatik
members whose entangled realities do not paint a picture of
helplessness, but of political assertiveness and social consciousness.
We are not trained filmmakers. We are activist lawyers and have
been associated with Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee(DMSC)
for over a decade. In 2007 we received a fellowship to write
a paper documenting the collectivization of Amra Padatik (AP),
the organization of children of sex workers formed under the
aegis of DMSC. But at one of our discussions during this time,
the young activists of AP told us that no one (especially within
their community) would ever read our paper which was going to
be written in English. So we were urged to do something more
useful with the research that will have a wider use and reach,
especially within their community. It was also around this time
that ‘Born into Brothels’ had won the Oscar and
Amra Padatik members were furious at the fact that the film
did not acknowledge the existence of the vibrant sex workers
movement in Kolkata and portrayed their mothers as irresponsible
and incompetent parents. The children drew inspiration from
the work that their mothers have been doing to demand their
right to sex work as work. Stereotypical images of their suffering
are something that many of them identify with, yet, far from
despair and fear, in the face of adversity,
their responses are far more complex, hopeful and strong.
Are Foot Soldiers" A Review by Mr. Mingling
Mingling " is a senior in high school living in San Francisco,
CA. His mother is a producer of the San Francisco Sex Worker
Film and Arts Festival. He likes watching movies, and reading
couple of days ago, I watched a movie called “We Are Foot
Soldiers”. It was the story of a couple of children in
Sonagachi Red Light district, in Kolkata, India, fighting for
reform, change, and all kinds of other things to help the abused,
and the mistreated sex workers in the area, and hopefully beyond.
go more in-depth, this movie was the story of five children,
who are named Gobindo, Ratan, Chaitali, Mithu, and, “Pinky”
(Real name not said).The main focus of this film is to tell
the stories of what all the children have in common, that being,
all of their mothers, happen to be Sex Workers in the Red Light-District
in which most of the children inhabit.
Each of these children have a background that they tell in the
movie, and each of those backgrounds are as moving as the last.
These stories range from fairly tame, to “Heart-wrenchingly
sad”, and that is what I think is the most important aspect
of this movie. They are not here to just tell us what is happening,
and, dare I say, this movie goes beyond sex worker rights, or
stopping abuse all together. This movie, in my opinion, is more
about changing how people view the different classes in India,
or just in society. I think that the children want us to get
the message that no one should be abused, or treated different
due to their place in society.
Towards the end of the movie, is where they started to take
some action. They formed a group known as “We are Foot
Soldiers”, to try to help their mothers, and all the mothers
(all sex workers, not just mothers) they can by giving their
support if they hear about a “pimp” turning an underage
girl, or a man beating on another woman. They are there to help,
and most interestingly, they are there to fight for their mother’s
right to continue their work, and to raise awareness on the
subject. I think the moral they want us to walk away from is,
“You can’t judge a book by it’s cover”.
I took from the movie was more than I could put into words,
but I’m gonna try anyways, so here we go. I think that
what I learned from this movie most, was tolerance. It’s
like, why should I judge what another person does to make money.
James Brown once said, “If you don’t work, you don’t
eat”, and because no one is offering any opportunity for
the men and women in this business, it’s like, what can
I even say, they just want to pay the bills.
I just want to say to the makers of the film, BRAVO!!! I loved
it. It was a great film, and well, it got the message to me.
This movie, in my opinion, will inspire many more people to
try and help, maybe not in India, but I think they will try
to help other people like the sex workers in the movie, or maybe
they will try to get help for the children of sex workers, who
have to bear the “shame” (as the ignorant people
say) that the mothers bring on them, so they can have a positive
outlook, I mean, the possibilities are endless, and that’s
the great part.