Topics: Economic Development / Poverty, Women / Gender / Sexuality
Calcutta Hilton is a short film about the Hiltons, a New Zealand family who moves to Calcutta to set-up a textile company, providing female prostitutes an opportunity to work outside of the sex industry.
Sonagacchi is the largest, most infamous sex district in Calcutta. Every day 20,000 men seek out the services of the 6,000 women who work there. As often happens, this all runs under the nose of local authorities. Every now and then police will make an appearance but the women themselves are treated as non-persons. Most of the women who work in Sonagacchi live there too. Many have been stolen from their homes, some tricked, others sold into prostitution by friends and family. In the class system of India, they languish at the bottom of the heap.
In 1999, Kerry and Annie Hilton decided to leave their idyllic lifestyle in Albany, New Zealand and move to India to establish business amongst the poor. When they unwittingly moved their family into Sonagacchi, the poor they found themselves helping were sex workers.
Realizing that to make a real difference charity just wouldn't cut it, the Hiltons set about creating a viable business, teaching the women to read and write as well as training them to become skilled workers and business women. After much product research and market testing, Kerry decided that manufacturing jute bags for export would be a realistic proposition. They called the business Freeset and signed up their first business partners: 20 older women from the district who were, albeit reluctantly, willing to give foreigners with good intentions another go.
Filmmaker Evie Ashton traveled to Calcutta to meet the Hilton family and the indomitable women the Hiltons call family.
To learn more or to purchase this film, visit Calcutta Hilton's official site.
To purchase the bags made by the women in this film, visit Freeset.