Sunday, May 9, 2010

"Babies" (the movie) Review

Oh. My. Goodness....these bambinos are SO ADORABLE!  

Today, for Mother's Day, my daughters (ages 5 and 10) went to see the new documentary "Babies" together.  
The premise of the film is that filmmakers follow the lives of 4 babies from birth through about 18 months.  The four babies are from wildly different cultures and countries.  

As described on the 'Babies' film website

Ponijao lives in Namibia with her family, including her parents and eight older brothers and sisters. Ponijao's family is part of the Himba tribe, and lives in a small village with other families.

Mari lives with her mother and father in Shibuya, a busy metropolitan area within Tokyo, at the center of all of the city's noise and excitement. Mari is an only child and lives a contemporary urban lifestyle.

Born in Mongolia, Bayarjargal, usually called "Bayar" for short, lives with his mother, father, and older brother Delgerjargal ("Degi") on their small family farm.

Hattie lives in San Francisco, born to very ecological, "green" parents.  Both of Hattie's parents are equally involved in her day-to-day life, fixing her meals, taking her to play groups, and spending time with her around the house.

And the synopsis (also taken from the film's website):

The adventure of a lifetime begins…

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balmès, from an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.

Re-defining the nonfiction art form, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.

I LOVED this film.  It was poignant, real, natural and touching.  It was four families...mainly mothers...who deeply love and care for their children, albeit in very different ways.  It was four babies who are remarkably similar in their development and wide-eyed wonder with the world even despite their vastly different settings.
I think this is a great movie to see with your children...boys and girls...probably ages 5 and up.  (My 5 year old was thrilled with the movie for about the first hour.  Then she started to get a bit restless)  The movie is full of educational "springboards" (see below) and a cultural and familial experience for children of all ages.

NOTE:  There is some natural/tribal nudity in the film.  All four mothers are shown at various times breastfeeding and partially undressed.  The African mother never wore a shirt as is custom in her tribe.  The babies, as well, are filmed in various states of undress (baths, etc.) and the babies in Mongolia and Namibia didn't wear diapers, often their bottoms were exposed.  I did not experience this nudity to be disturbing to my girls...though I did take the time to mention to them that this kind of nudity was showing the natural part of being a mommy and a baby in those various cultures.  However that is something to be aware of depending on your personal comfort level with your children viewing nudity of that kind.

The educational components of this film abound...and there are many ways you can expand on the material in the film to support further learning.  These few initial ideas that came to mind for me:

  • Cultural Studies (for each of the cultures represented)  We've been studying Story of the World Vol. 1 this year, which began with a study of nomadic lifestyles.  After seeing this movie, my older daughter and I discussed what a 'yurt' is and why that type of home is symbolic of a semi-nomadic lifestyle.  
  • Geographical Study (where is Japan, Mongolia, Namibia & San Fransisco?)
  • Home Economics (elements of taking care of babies)
  • Global Art (making braided necklaces like those seen on the Namibian baby, or a cloth swaddled doll like the Mongolian baby)
Besides my positive review, some of the "pros" gave these reviews:

Ann Horaday, Washington Post - "Mesmerizing"
Mary Pols, Time magazine - "Charming!  This film's message was loving and clear."
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times - "Wonderful!"

Watch the trailer here:

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