Movie Review: Babies

9 May

Part parade-of-cuteness, part anthropological exploration, Babies takes a look at the first year in the life of four children: three girls (from rural Namibia, urban Japan, and urban U.S.) and one boy (from rural Mongolia).  There’s no dialogue, just background noises, baby babble, and the occasional snippet of adult conversation.  Yet it manages to say so much…

I was fascinated by the differences in mothering among the cultures: The Mongolian mother uses breast milk to clean the baby’s face and warms the baby’s bath water in her mouth (both make perfect sense, come to think of it); the Namibian mother practices Elimination Communication with her infant (though for her it’s just the traditional way of attending to her child’s physiological needs); the Japanese mother drops off her not-yet-crawling baby at daycare (much to the child’s dismay); the American mother (or maybe it’s the father) takes the child to Native American music sessions (in which the only people showing any interest or involvement are the adults).

The child-rearing approaches are as varied as the families’ socio-economic levels, and yet all the babies strive for – and achieve – the same things.  They bond with the parents, explore the world around them using all five senses, torment household pets, and work incredibly hard to develop gross motor skills.

I was fascinated by the contrast of the traditional Mongolian and Namibian families against their modern Japanese and American counterparts, proving that there’s more than one way to raise a healthy and happy child.  Regardless of their living conditions, the children were developing at their own rhythm, following Mother Nature’s plan, and pausing only when faced with environmental obstacles.  If anything, the children born in third-world countries seemed to have the upper hand when it came to solving problems on their own, and had more opportunities to learn from their communities.

While I couldn’t imagine raising a child in rural Namibia, it is refreshing to realize that one can forgo all the gizmos, gadgets, and toys we’re led to believe are essential for raising a happy and healthy child.  Behind this movie’s cuteness and novelty factor is an important lesson for all parents (and parents-to-be):  Children are resilient, follow their inner drive, and need only a healthy dose of freedom, love, respect, trust, and tangible experiences to unleash their potential.

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7 Responses to “Movie Review: Babies”

  1. Nichole May 10, 2010 at 2:51 am #

    My first time to the theatre since Bea’s arrival was this weekend. And what did I see? A movie about babies! I really like it as well. For all of the reasons you mentioned. Yes, babies need so very little. Love, respect, nurturing… But really, we could pass on the toys – even the beautiful, wooden ones – and they’d thrive just the same.

  2. kelly (@kblogger) May 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm #

    I’d love to see this! Thanks for the review. Would it be appropriate for children to see? My little ones love my books on child/baby development. It sounds like this movie might be right up their alley.

    PS: Are you on twitter?

    • montessorimatters May 11, 2010 at 3:25 am #

      I think the Babies movie is appropriate for children, as long as you’re an open-minded parent who isn’t freaked out by National Geographic-type images of bare-breasted Namibian women breast-feeding their infants. I thought it was a very tasteful movie, beautifully edited and with stunning cinematography. The babies were adorable and funny… If I had children I would take them, and perhaps discuss with them afterward the cultural differences they saw.

      As for Twitter… I had a personal account but I don’t use it much (I’m more of a FB person). However, I’d been considering adding a Twitter feed for the blog, and your question convinced me to do it. We’ll see if I can keep it up. 🙂 I’m now officially @montmatters

      • kelly (@kblogger) May 11, 2010 at 1:50 pm #

        Fantastic! I just followed you on Twitter. You can follow me back @kblogger

        Breastfeeding is normal & natural; perfectly fine for children to see, so I wouldn’t be freaked out. 😉

        I’ll definitely check it out when it comes to video, thanks! 🙂

  3. Karen May 11, 2010 at 3:32 pm #

    Hi! Our son hasn’t seen a movie yet, and isn’t a TV watcher. He is 3 yr old. Do you think it’s appropriate to bring him to this movie? He has been plenty exposed to breastfeeding.

    Thx for your thoughts!!

    • montessorimatters May 12, 2010 at 2:05 am #

      Karen, I think it depends what your 3-yr old is like. Some of my 3 yr old students are very “with it” and would appreciate the movie in their own way. For them, it would be a great cultural experience and a chance to later discuss some of the things they’ve seen. For some of my less “worldly” 3-yr olds, I don’t think any screen exposure is healthy (but they get it anyway). You know your child better than anyone else, so if he’s inquisitive, interested in the world around him, and you think he would appreciate a well-made film with no dialogue and beautiful music, then go for it. Mind you, when I went to see it, I wasn’t thinking of young children as an audience, so I don’t know if I paid enough attention to whether it was appropriate for that age group. There are a few shots of babies throwing tantrums or not feeling well (including a newborn in the NICU), and if your child is particularly empathic he might not know how to react… Other than that, and the breastfeeding, I don’t think there’s anything alarming. I was particularly pleased with the long segments, so unusual in our day and age of scene changes every 2 seconds (even in so-called educational TV like Baby Einstein).

      Hope this helps… Let me know what you decide!

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