Probably not billed as a kids movie (more “gratuitous” nudity than the average PG movie) but Dillon and I were excited to see “Babies,” the documentary, which follows the lives of four babies during their developmental years (from birth to walking): Ponijao from Namibia, Bayarijargal from remote Mongolia, Mari in Tokyo, Japan, and Hattie in San Francisco, CA.
We were espeicially curious after USA Today gave the move a good review, but the Chicago Reader said “In the press notes (Director Thomas) Balmes argues that material advantages hardly compare to the love a child enjoys, but this sunny sentiment is belied by the yawning gap in the kids’ living conditions: the American and Japanese babies enjoy nice toys and stimulating mom-and-tot classes, while the African child plays with mud and flies.”
Our take? The Reader’s evaluation is through a USAmerican lens that gauges happiness solely by material goods. In some cases the babies from Tokyo and San Francisco seemed so protected as to have no “real’ contact with the outside world and depended on their parents for entertainment. The babies from Mongolia and Namibia seemed to engage and learn from everything around them. And, as Dillon mentioned, Mari cried in frustration when surrounded by toys in her Tokyo apartment, while Bayarjargal giggled in delight in Mongolia, completely absorbed by a role of toilet paper.
Three other takes: 1.) I was so the USAmerican Mom! Native American singing classes, dolls with different skin colors, baby books called “No Hitting.” (Note to self, get out of house to experience different cultures); 2.) Our own bias (or lack of knowledge) shows in our reference to the baby from the Himba Tribe in Namibia always as “African” or from Africa–that’s like saying a baby is from Europe or South America, rather than from a specific country or culture–bias noted and research underway for next time; and 3.) Maybe sit away from anybody else–we whispered and chatted the whole time–lots of questions, comparisons, so many things to notice–too much for a child to absorb in silence!
The trailer is worth a peak, and ends with Dillon’s favorite scene–the goat drinking bath water, while the baby is still in it!
Have you seen it? What do you think? Got any other good intercultural family movies to suggest?