Briefly Noted ~ Books & Movies Members Recommend
This observant documentary offers an up-close-and-personal glimpse of four babies from vastly different cultures in their first year of life. It's not a traditional documentary; there's no narration, subtitles or scientific information imparted. There's far more gurgling and cooing than dialogue. The developmental similarities are there, but it's the differences in behavior and circumstances that jump out. We meet the easygoing Ponijao, her mother and other members of her Himba tribe outside her family's dirt hut in Namibia. Curious Bayarjargal lives with his parents and siblings and a herd of cattle on their farm in remote Mongolia. Mari has a toy-filled existence in a small apartment with her parents in Tokyo. Hattie lives a pampered American life in San Francisco with parents. She is taken to baby yoga, and a book titled No Hitting sits prominently on a bookshelf. Ponijao and other tribal children share easily, Bayarjargal and his brother squabble, but their parents generally let them work it out. Mari doesn't have as much chance to interact with other babies, but gets frustrated by the bevy of educational toys set out to amuse her. Some of the most riveting moments in this cinematic scrapbook are those most removed from American experience. Bayarjargal lies swaddled on his back, watching raptly as a colorful rooster parades around his bed, perilously close to stepping on the infant. When old enough to crawl, he fearlessly makes his way into a herd of cattle. No one is around to swoop him up. But the cows step around him and the boy obliviously ambles off. Ponijao exchanges a kiss with a roaming dog. Ponijao and her family seem the most content, though their circumstances are easily the most meager. This could be because of Balmès' Rousseau-like belief in the nobility of those living closest to the natural state. There does seem to be this subtle point of view, based on his scenes chosen from the 400 hours of footage shot. The procession of youthful behavior is almost hypnotic, but Babies is delivered with refreshing immediacy and joyful humor.APPPAH member Karen Strange adds, "Just saw this cute, sweet movie. No plot, no narration, just babies from 4 countries. Nothing sad, or bad or wrong (my kind of movie)—just babies. Pleasant and nice to see. If you love babies, go and see this!"