Thoughts on Babies, the movie

So, I went to opening night of Babies, and unlike the Weekly I give it four stars, I would give it five if they had shown more of the births.

First, a synopsis of the film:  Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are: Ponijao, who lives with her family in Namibia; Bayar, who resides with his family in Mongolia, ; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco. It’s kinda like Baraka, showcasing different cultures and their customs side by side and, like Baraka, I think this is one to watch over and over to assimilate.  (OMG, I just found that the Baraka creators are doing one on birth, rebirth & death called Samasara, due out in 2011 – awesome!!!)  Most first time viewers, especially non-parents, might think it a cute and charming film and get a vague sense that there’s something important being revealed here, and indeed there is.

I have to mention that not even five minutes into the film, a dude sitting several rows in front of me, whipped around all annoyed at Maya’s sweet excitement she was exhibiting over the film. She was not crying or being loud, just kinda babbling and grunting her approval. He ran out of the theater and came in moments later followed by a movie staffer, who came in to check the scene out and had wisdom to leave it alone. The moment she started to get fussy a bit later on, I took her and calmed her down so no one would be affected, but I thought it was a bit short sighted of this gentleman to come to a movie about babies and get in a huff about sweet sounds when the movie was littered with a good bit of crying and other other baby noises. I hope his lady friend does not sleep with him tonight.

Anywho…

As a new mom who is instinctively uncomfortable with books, toys, hand sanitizer, tv, baby food, bouncers and a lot of the other trappings of the modern day parent, I’ve looked to the wisdom of indigenous cultures whose children seem happy & whole to challenge the assumptions my culture has ingrained in me about parenting and children.

Go see this film. It’s an important study on degree of connection/separation, depending on the kind of lens you view things through. It compels us to question our assumptions of what’s best for babies and ourselves. It’s a perfect companion to my new favorite book, Ascent of Humanity.

The most connected baby is also the happiest & brightest – it’s hard to separate her from her family or environment, as it all blends together like one complete system. The more material goods and modern technology are introduced, the less each baby has an opportunity to connect and engage with people, animals and nature and the more confusion, stress and crying occur. I think it’s also interesting to note that the most connected baby has no involved adult males, but the least connected baby has more contact with her dad than her mom.

After you go see the movie, please come back here and add your comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I know I came home and immediately had the urge to purge my entire house of things and started dreaming of rolling in the dirt with Maya.

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Babies, the movie

  1. DIRT! ( http://dirtthemovie.org/ )Definitely seems to be the way to go.

    My initial reaction upon entering the theater sans companion was to observe who else would be seeing a movie about babies on a Saturday afternoon. There was a good draw and I was pleasantly surprised to see a mix of people from all stages of life. Several grandparent couples, single grandma types, young, childless couples and even what could have been a lesbian couple were in attendance. (I sat in the very back & could easily scan the crowd.) Noticeably absent were babies and children. Hmmm… Perhaps “Babies” is a movie young couples use as a tool to help them decide whether or not to start families. I went to see it because the trailer was adorable and am officially into babies since becoming pregnant.

    Ultimately, we see what creators of the film wanted us to see, and my reactions are just as varied as the audience in attendance. I felt most comfortable and a happy while watching Ponijao from Namibia. The village lifestyle just seemed so right, natural. The network of ever present and nurturing women dedicated to the task of caring for all the children seemed to create an over all sense of joy, peace and emotional stability for the kids. The kids in turn gave that nurturing back to the younger ones. Rocks and dirt provided sound stimulation for the curious babe and I’m okay with that!

    Bayar from Mongolia left me feeling confused and unsure. Though he is surrounded by nature and seemingly happy, the clips showed him often unsupervised and at the mercy of his surroundings. Cows, rooster, goat and slightly older brother are the primary nannies in his life and he survives just fine. But I felt stressed watching him.

    Hattie’s (SF) and Mari’s (Tokyo) environments were the ones I was LEAST comfortable watching. Their lifestyles and communities felt soooo artificial to me and watching them left me feeling oogy. They had all the plastic and nursery rhymes life has to offer. But the babies were more often cranky, bored and less… natural. Oddly enough, the societal norms in which they are being raised represent what I am to offer MY child when he or she arrives. I just don’t want that. I’ve want to figure out different way.

    I definitely want to see “Babies” again after my baby has been here for a while, when my lens, I’m sure, will have a different perspective.

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  2. I think there can be a balance. We certainly utilize many ‘modern’ forms of pleasure, and our almost five year old has a nice blend of technology/mud pies/tv/painting/plastic toys/tree climbing to her day. She is engaged, intelligent, creative, and connected.

    I definitely agree with you on some points (of course a baby who is worn for 6 hours a day would tend to be more connected than one who is in a bouncy seat for the same length of time, I would assume) but I just don’t choose to believe that all the things of modern society are necessarily ‘trappings’.

    I also wonder who is judging the ‘connection’ or the ‘brightness’ of said babies? I think we can all agree that there is a wide range of the two concepts, and that a slice into what I am sure is a heavily edited (though indeed interesting and likely relevant) film doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what I imagine are a ton of other variables in each family’s personal dynamic.

    That having been said though, I do believe babies thrive in a more organic or natural environment where they are left to explore their world’s safely, knowing that their caregivers are close by for guidance and love – and I think I would enjoy the film.

    Blessings 🙂

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    1. I definitely know that what’s good for me is not necessarily good for everyone & I definitely would not give up my cloth diapers and the washing machine that goes with them just yet! ;p

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  3. Miriam, I guess that means you don’t want all the things I’m about to get out of here? :p I didn’t want any of it, and I can tell you, I had the bare minimum of this stuff and used like 10% of it, all very minimally. You can do it, and I will not ignore my intuition for my next baby…these things just separate us from our babes! If you go to the film website you can read interviews with each of the families after they watched the film…. very interesting in & of themselves.

    I too am interested to see how this film does. I imagine it will do poorly in theaters, but will get enough critical mass to become a well bought and watched film at home. Definitely would be required watching for parents-to-be…

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  4. Sold! I can’t wait to see it! And I hate that stuff, too. Kindle learned to roll over, sit, etc. by trying to do it when she was ready. It’s amazing 😉 but they can develop just fine (if not better) without “tools” to “teach” them. They just need love and the trust to experiment on their own terms.

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  5. I finally saw the movie just recently and absolutely loved it and so did my 2 year old son 🙂 Its amazing to see the different customs and cultures around the world. I was born and raised in Ukraine, but now live in Canada and their is a tremendous difference in raising children between the two countries. One thing i find the hardest to deal with are the constant threats and recalls on almost every baby related product and all the warnings of don’t do this and don’t let your child do this. I think we just need to let kids be kids. I find that North Americans are way too overprotective.

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