The critically acclaimed “Babies” just came out on DVD, so you and your family can watch the documentary featuring four babies from four corners of the world. Without narration, this movie introduces the birth of these four babies first in Africa, then Mongolia, then Tokyo and finally San Francisco. This order of introduction reflects the way technology and progress has made birthing, caring and loving babies in our modern world.
The African baby is in almost an idyllic scene, all his basic needs met, always with his mother, and yet independent to explore nature and the world with watchful eyes on him. No diapers, no soap, no toys, and not even a crib. This provides a stark contrast for the American baby, who we first see attached to a number of hospital technologies, alone. Later we see contraptions such as a baby bouncer and a bicycle cart containing the baby in a way that would certainly seem foreign to the African mothers.
These moments make this film an excellent cross cultural experience of different ways to raise babies, and perhaps leads to a questioning of certain cultural assumptions we have about mothering. This film doesn’t give any cultural context or explanations for the different behaviors. We don’t learn very much about the parents at all. In the case of the African baby and perhaps even the Mongolian child, we rarely see the fathers. The father who participates in the child-rearing this most is in San Francisco, where he takes a shower with the baby and holds the sleeping baby.
And we also have many moments where these babies seem to be left unattended. But, of course, the cameraman is in the room or outside taking film of these babies, but even the lack of apparent interaction of the babies with the parents can be startling. We see the Mongolian child being, perhaps, watched by her older sibling, who taunts her mercilessly. We see no attempts of the parent to step in. Later we see the same sibling pulling a cat with a string, and the same cat stepping on top of the baby in another scene.
It is these differences, or small moments of differences, that make this film interesting. Being a baby is universal but there are so many variations in the experience.
The DVD also shows the film-makers returning to see these babies as four years old, and the fun of seeing these kids watch the DVD themselves.
Running Time: 1 hr 19 min
MPAA rating: PG for cultural and maternal nudity only