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Babies (2010) Babies (2010)

The French director Thomas Balmès gives us a sophisticated version of home movies in this short (79 minutes) documentary about the first year of life for four babies from very different parts of the world. Bayarjargal is from Mongolia, Ponijao from Namibia, Mari from Tokyo, and Hattie is from San Francisco. The film begins with their very different births into the world and ends as they take their first steps at age one. There's no narration, voiceover, or dialogue whatsoever, only the background interactions of the mothers (the fathers are almost entirely absent). In some ways we pity Bayarjargal and Ponijao for their poverty and isolation, but we envy their strong family communities (and no TV!). We're left wondering which babies enjoy a "richer" upbringing. The lush scenery of the Mongolian steppe and the harsh Namibian desert make for marvelous viewing. Every baby and culture is unique, of course, but the film also captures the universal themes experienced by all babies and parents, like sibling rivalry, playing with animals, learning to eat and the like. This film is fantastic for family viewing.

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