Babies (Review)

(5/07/10; Documentary)
Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, Hattie
DIR: Thomas Balmès
MPAA: PG for cultural and maternal nudity throughout.
1 hour 19 mins
BOX: $7,320,323

The title says it all. We follow four babies through the first year of their lives. The hook is that the babies live in four wildly different environments: Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco (Oakland, really).

The scenes are intercut without the baggage of a forced storyline, narration or subtitles, but the message is clear: a baby who is loved will love back.

The most common response to this film is a visceral reaction to the various settings. I’ve heard people say they wanted to scream “Swat those flies away,” or “There’s a chicken on the baby’s bed!” But that’s half the fun and one can only imagine how African audiences would think of our overly pampered environments.

A minor controversy erupted over the fact that filmmakers staged environments so that there would be minimal interaction from parents and barely any dialogue, which stirs the pot about how involved a documentary filmmaker should get when setting the stage. But come on, the movie is called Babies. If it makes you feel better, don’t think of this as a documentary so much as a visual essay, and as such, it’s charming and illuminating. (Focus)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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