Who doesn’t love babies? When a new baby is introduced into a group of women, we usually take turns passing the baby around and just staring at the baby’s newness.
Last week, Jen and I were lucky enough to see the sneak preview of BABIES, the amazing new film by French fimmaker Thomas Balmes, which kicked off the HotDocs Film Festival. The film follows four babies, born in four corners of the world, during their first year of life. Ponijao from Namibia, Mari from Japan, Bayar from Mongolia and Hattie from the United States amaze, amuse and entertain the audience for the duration of the film’s almost two hours. The audience is treated to the babies’ first moments, their first meals, their first utterances and their first steps.
The amazing thing about this film is that there is absolutely no narration, just the wonderful musical soundtrack. This means that the exact same film will be released all over the world. When asked during a Q and A session whether audiences around the world laughed in the same places, Balmes replied “exactly”. I think that speaks to the universality of human emotion, and to our desire to connect with humanity (not to mention the pure joy we all derive from staring at babies!)
The filmmaker was quick to purport that he was not trying to pass on any message with BABIES. In fact, Balmes said he’d “leave it to the mailman to deliver the message”, and please just take the film for what it is; an observation of human beings during their first twelve months of life, a celebration of the joy of babies, and an examination of the connectivity of the human experience.
There were moments during the film when I remarked on how similar babies were. Every baby from Mongolia to San Francisco approached the domestic animals in their lives with the same mix of curiosity, enthusiasm and mischief. All four babies appeared to be involved in a complete love affair with their mothers during the first year of life.
However, there were striking differences to note, too. In Namibia, the babies were tended to by various women and by the village’s older children, but the audience never saw a man on the scene. In Mongolia, babies were left to their own devices (and one of the best parts of the movie was watching to see what type of trouble Bayar could find), while in Japan there is almost a sensory overload for the babies as parents try to stimulate them during every waking moment.
Both Jen and I commented that we could see flashes of our own parenting trials and errors on the big screen, but the beauty of BABIES is that it is in no way judgmental or comparative. It is simply an observation of the lives of babies around the world.
So this Mother’s Day, treat a mother, or treat your children to BABIES. I think it’s a film that everyone will enjoy, and anyone can appreciate; whether you spend the time in the theatre contemplating the universality of how babies relate to their food, or whether you spend your time soaking in the babies with a big grin on your face. This is a movie with something for everyone!