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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Babies -- which features four families from different parts of the world -- holds large appeal for both parents and children alike. There are no subtitles and several different languages spoken, but the universal messages of family and childrearing come through easily. Some families portrayed come from countries where nudity is commonplace (Namibia, specifically), and there are scenes of mothers breastfeeding children, but the images are placed in their social contexts. The movie offers a way for kids to learn about what it’s like to grow up elsewhere in the planet, and to acknowledge differences as well as similarities.
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What's the story?
Director Thomas Balmes and his crew head to four points on the globe to film four BABIES: Mari of Tokyo, Japan; Bayarjargal (Bayar for short) in Mongolia; Ponijao of Namibia; and Hattie, born in San Francisco. Their everyday lives are captured on film as they discover the world in their first year of life, during which they learn how to discern their parents’ and siblings’-- and even their pets’ -- faces; master crawling and walking; and embark on adventures marked by (and independent of) language, cultural, and geographical differences.
Is it any good?
The filmmakers let the images speak for themselves -- there are no subtitles and little camera trickery -- and the soundtrack, though delightful, doesn’t intrude. It’s just as well: The babies are infinitely watchable. Watch Mari wail and flail over uncooperative toys; Bayar pull rank with a cat; Ponijao attempt to stand up to a cousin; and Hattie find joy in making sounds. To watch the adorable babies is to celebrate infancy, regardless of ethnicity or geography.
Yet, although the filmmakers are presenting their subjects without comment, the juxtapositions of scenes do make a statement. For example, Bajar and Ponijao are free to explore in the muck, literally, while Hattie and Mari are in relatively sterile environments, which begs the question: Does this mean anything? Do Bajar and Ponijao need more tending to, or are they lucky because they are more in touch with nature? (And they seem none the worse for wear for it, either.) Is one way of parenting better than another? There’s certainly lots to ponder: the mysteries of childhood, cultural diversity, and humanity itself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how babies are raised in different countries: Are there any similarities among the four portrayed here? What are the main differences? Why do you think the filmmakers decided to make Babies?
What can we learn from the way babies live in different parts of the world? Did you find yourself making judgments about unfamiliar child rearing practices? Why or why not? Do you think the filmmakers presented the four families objectively -- or was there a bias?
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