recently celebrated the birth
of Liliana, our first grandchild, I admit I am a little biased toward
babies in general and the documentaryBabiesby Thomas Balmes in
particular. The film, however, stands on its own as a joyous
celebration of the first year of life for four youngsters in different
parts of the world. Filmed without narration, subtitles, or any
comprehensible dialogue,Babiesis a direct encounter with
four babies who stumble their predictable ways to participating in the
awesome beauty of life.
Enhanced by the
inspiring music by Bruno Coulais, we follow Mari, a little girl in
Tokyo Japan; Ponijao, another girl living in Namibia in Africa with
their mother and eight brothers and sisters; Bayer (Bayarjargal) a boy
who lives in Mongolia; and Hattie, definitely the most privileged of
the four who lives with her apparently super aware parents in San
Francisco. Watching their development over the first twelve months of
life is a direct experience of the enchantment that life has to offer.
The babies laugh, they cry, they play, they get frustrated, they poop,
and they bask in the loving tenderness of those around them.
Needless to say,
experience of the first year of life is vastly different, yet what
stands out is not how much is different but how much is universal as
each in their own way attempts to conquer their physical environment.
Mari becomes frustrated as she sets about getting the hang of teaching
toys by attempting to place a spindle into the hole of a disc. Bayer
unravels a role of toilet paper and then takes bites out of it when it
is all undone. Hattie crawls towards the door during a parental ecology
meeting in San Francisco as if to say, “Get me out of here, I've had
enough of this”.
different as well as the environment, the babies cry the same, laugh
the same, and try to learn the frustrating, yet satisfying art of
crawling, then walking in the same way. Of course, those in Tokyo and
San Francisco have definite physical advantages over their young
counterparts in Mongolia and Namibia. Hattie has the advantage of
cultured and literate parents who read to her and show her books with
the title “No Hitting.”
close to earth, naturally sitting with goats or playing among cows,
having their tongue licked by a dog, and even drinking water out of a
dirty stream, yet we are confident that life for Bayer and Ponijao,
though culturally different than for Hattie and Mari, will survive and
prosper by the loving ways of their own parents and the environment in
which they live. You will either findBabiesentrancing or slow moving
depending on your attitude towards babies because frankly that's all
there is, yet for all it will be an immediate experience far removed
from the world of cell phones and texting, exploring up close and
personal the mystery of life as the individual personality of each
child begins to emerge. For me, it was difficult to resist.