I have two nieces, the younger of whom is almost exactly the same age as this challenge. The elder is almost exactly one year ahead. They’re my sister’s kids, and they live quite far away from me. My experience of them growing up has been limited to photos and videoclips, following much the same format as this week’s Saturday Documentary. This one’s dedicated to my little pirates, Maddie and Caitlin. See you in a couple of months, girls.
It will make you broody.
French documentarian Thomas Balmès and his crew spend a year filming four babies from around the world, from birth to their first steps.
This is easily the most universal film I have ever seen. It is the simplest idea – point a camera at a baby and see what happens – but it plays out as an examination of both the constants and the differences across different cultures when it comes to raising a child through the most vulnerable year of its life. Without any narration or interviews, this movie is for anyone and everyone.
At only 75 minutes, what the film lacks in depth it makes up for with some stunning and memorable images, the funniest of which usually involve young Bayar from Mongolia, who counts the families goats and cows among his playmates and babysitters. It also gives a slightly romanticised view of raising a child. While they may come from vastly different economic backgrounds, the families are all loving and attentive and the babies are all happy, healthy and inquisitive. But hands up all the anthropology students? Exactly. You’re not here for that, you’re here for entertainment, and Babies certainly meets that requirement.
If you already have little ones of your own, chances are you’ll recognise plenty of moments here, whether it’s Hattie from San Francisco peeling a banana with intense concentration, or Ponijao from Namibia learning to walk with her big brother’s help, or Mari from Tokyo trying to hitch a ride on the cat. If you’re not a parent yet, after this you may want to be.
Babies is the very definition of a family film, but as the official statement goes, it contains “cultural and maternal nudity”. If the sight of breastfeeding brings you out in a cold sweat, either grow up or go watch Tellytubbies instead.
You can watch Babies right now on Lovefilm in the UK, on iTunes everywhere, or On Demand from the film’s site. It is also available on DVD and Blu-ray, of course.