Thursday, May 13, 2010

Review - Babies

A documentary that chronicles four infant's first year of life from four different locations around the world including Mongolia, Tokyo, San Francisco and Namibia.

"Babies" is apart from most documentaries I've seen before it. The film simply documents four infant's first year of life. There is absolutely zero narration throughout the 79 minute doc and director Thomas Balmes does not drive home any one point about babies or parenting. There is no position or reasoning behind the film other than seeing four unique upbringings from four infants around the world.

Despite the fact that there is no resounding message behind "Babies," the film is very thoughtful and does an excellent job at illustrating the different and at times alarming upbringings of the four babies filmed. The footage following both Bayar in Mongolia and Ponijao in Namibia is by far the most compelling. In the case of Ponijao, it was an eye-opening experience watching a child raised in, what most would consider, unsanitary conditions. I mean we've all ate a little dirt when we were kids, but some of the stuff Ponijao sticks in her mouth is just plain nasty. On the other hand, Bayar's footage left me astonished at how independent his parents were raising him. Bayar is left to fend for himself in a majority of the footage shown, while the other three babies are almost always with their parents.

The cinematography throughout "Babies" is stunning. Cinematographers Jérôme Alméras, Frazer Bradshaw and Steeven Petitteville all do fabulous jobs. Not only do they all capture fascinating moments of the various babies, but the work within the locations is inspiring. Particularly, Mongolia. Some of the most beautiful countryside and skylines I have seen on film. Credit must be given to the entire lot of camera operators that spent countless hours following around the babies in order to get the truly hilarious, inane, stomach turning and emotional moments on camera.

Filming four different babies for one year of their lives is a ton of film and no easy task, but imagine editing all of that footage into under two hours of film. I'm sure film editors Reynald Bertrand and Craig McKay spent oodles of time sifting through footage piecing it together. They along with director Thomas Balmes deserve a ton of credit for making "Babies" a thoroughly enjoyable experience. An experience that reminded me of so many precious moments I've had watching my four children grow.

"Babies" in moments feels like a test run for adults considering children. The film very much illustrates the inane and frustrating moments of babies. The cuddling, the suckling, the crying, the laughing, the holding, the peeing all of it. It also has those moments that completely warm your heart. It would seem that if after watching "Babies," you think to yourself I would not want to put up with this or that, parenthood is definitely not for you. I could be very wrong on this notion, because holding a child of your own is totally different than watching one on screen, but it does raise an eyebrow.

Being a father of four, I found "Babies" as close as I wanted to get  to any more babies. It echoed my strong feelings towards not having any more children. Four is a major challenge, one that I love, but I have no desire to keep the family growing. Thomas Balmes' documentary does a compelling job of presenting contrasting upbringings while each of them still had very close similarities. For instance, Hattie and Mari who were born into two totally different cultures but still shared many of the same experiences. Insightful stuff for having no narration whatsoever. Finally "Babies" is a documentary that I would recommend for everyone to see. It is not a look at this injustice or something needs to change type impact film, but instead just a simple collage of enjoyable moments that too many parents have probably taken for granted once or twice.