Saturday, May 8, 2010

The BabbyMama Buys: BABIES

Thanks to a friend, I was able to attend a private screening of the new film BABIES, which looks at one year in the life of four babies from around the world, from Mongolia to Namibia to San Francisco to Tokyo. While I was a little concerned going in that I'd be subjected to a little over an hour of sickeningly sweet footage of babies drooling, I walked out thinking BABIES is cinema-vérité at its best.

One review in the NYT really got it, so here's a slice of that review:
Their names are Hattie, Mari, Bayarjargal and Ponijao, and they show themselves to be natural-born comedians, single-minded researchers, action heroes and disciplined workers, each in his or her own special way. They seem to possess distinctive personalities from the very beginning, and as they make their way through infancy, you watch their temperaments grow from bud to blossom.
You also note that while parental love transcends differences of geography and tradition, various cultures cultivate their fledgling members in different ways. Bayarjargal, in Mongolia, is first tightly swaddled and then, as his mobility increases, tethered to his yurt by a long cloth cord. Ponijao, in Africa, crawls about surrounded by a group of women, and her play mimics their daily tasks of grinding meal and preparing food.
In the metropolises of the developed world, Mari (in Japan) and Hattie (in California) are part of a structured world of work and leisure, surrounded by cellphones and computers and exposed to organized group activities that in some cases self-consciously try to mimic the rituals of agrarian and tribal societies.
There are no voice overs, no subtitles... other than the sounds made by the babies themselves, you don't hear much talking. There isn't even that much music. I read one review that said that if you aren't ga-ga for infants, you wouldn't get much out of a film like BABIES, but I felt like it was an exploration of culture more than anything else. The culture of being a baby and of raising babies, sure, but culture nonetheless. I know that babies are trendy these days (and it's a trend that comes and goes like any other) but I don't think that makes this movie any less interesting.
  • Moms in other cultures let their babies get a lot dirtier than most American moms do - and that's okay. Maybe I should stop being so uptight about letting Paloma play in the sand or soil.
  • Domesticated animals can be very, very tolerant of being stepped on, dragged around, yanked at, etc. That poor Mongolian kitteh!
  • Babies are pretty happy when they accomplish something they set out to do, whether they're in Namibia or Japan or somewhere else in the world.
  • A chunk of fat with a match through it makes a passable pacifier? A corncob and one's knee can stand in for a baby wipe.
The only thing I regret is that the Babby couldn't come with me, since it was a special baby-friendly screening, and there were infants of all ages and even some kids in attendance. I think Paloma would have a gotten a kick out of BABIES! Or at least out of toddling up and down the theatre aisles!


  1. I've seen the trailers for this documentary and can't wait to see it!

  2. Happy Mother's Day to you, too, Teresha!


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