Monthly Archives: January 2011

“Babies” R Us

And it’s been almost a year since I last posted – amazing how a gal’s time gets eaten up by pregnancy, and then a hungry baby girl (not to mention the day job, other daily responsibilities…)

And of course the film I chose to write about after such a long hiatus has to be “Babies” since the topic is currently my day-to-day.  What a better way to meld that into this blog.

As I mentioned back in April in my Hot Docs post, the film did receive a wide distribution as I suspected it would. So here I was at home with Scout napping this afternoon and I browsed my On Demand programming and spotted “Babies” in the listings. I settled into the couch and allowed the world and the tender beginnings of human life unfold on my television screen.

The two foremost thoughts that came to mind as I watched, and these thoughts came back to me time and time again throughout the 79 minutes were: “I overthink and second-guess my parenting wayyyyy too much,” and “the filmmakers must have done a hell of a lot of traveling, and a ginormous amount of filming in no less than a couple of years in order to present these spectacular 79 minutes.”

After a little poking around, I read in this New York Times article, that indeed it took 400 days of filming spread over two years, and that it took almost two additional years of editing to whittle down 400 hours of footage to bring us this memorable document of early human life and its precious, often hilarious moments, on four different continents.

French Producer Alain Chabat had the idea of filming the earliest years of babies from around the world and set the images to music, a sort of nature film, but instead of animals, the subjects would be new humans. However, director Thomas Balmès offered a slightly different manner of presentation. He agreed that the piece should not be narrated and that the images would speak for themselves; however, instead of cute pictures of babies, he wanted to juxtapose infants from different corners of the world (Mongolia, Japan, Namibia and USA) as they experienced the first year of their lives. In doing so, the similarities in their lives – developing motor skills, chattering, taking their first steps – would contrast meaningfully with the differences in their lives – the rugged vistas of Mongolian plains versus the crowded streets of Tokyo.

I was overwhelmed with emotion watching the tender earliest days of these babies’ lives, then disturbed when cattle nearly knocked over little Bayar, the Mongolian baby, curious when Ponijao’s mother wiped her feces on her knee in Namibia, and empathetic when little Mari in Japan loses her cool over some building blocks that just won’t stack. As a North American mother, I was critical of how Hattie in San Francisco was being raised – seemingly perfectly I decided. And at that moment I found myself laughably in the hyper-parent trap I was hoping to avoid! Aha, nothing a good dose of “Babies” to make me realize that my little girl was doing just fine, that I needn’t overthink things, that babies are babies wherever and however as long as they’re loved.

Certainly, this film is the definitive film on babies. Like “Planet Earth,” it is the visual and aural standard for its subject matter and thankfully, not just a music video with cute pictures of babies.