Sunday, May 09, 2010

What Makes A Mother?

Well, a baby, of course.  And to celebrate Mothers Day, French documentary film director Thomas Balmès brings us "Babies," a 79-minute infant extravaganza.  Balmès intercuts the adventures of four babies - three girls and a boy -- from very different countries and cultures, Wasting no time with narration or explanation, Balmès takes the babies from birth through their first steps.  The babies do all the talking in this film, long before they actually can.

I'm not going to spoil the film for you, except to tell you that this is a documentary about (and largely by) babies. If you're not into them, you won't like the movie, so don't waste your time. As it happens, since my daughter is on the precipice of motherhood, and I am due to be a grandmother, we are all about the baby toes and baby cheeks and baby gurgles and coos. We loved it.

The babies are from vastly different worlds -- a tribe in Namibia, herdsmen in Mongolia, a young, upwardly mobile couple from Tokyo, and a crunchy granola couple from San Francisco. Differing cultural practices of child-rearing aside, Balmès does manage to show that mothers and babies speak a universal language.

Here is the trailer for the movie. By the end, you should be able to tell if you want to see it or not.

Meanwhile, the movie made me compile a list of things we can learn from the movie... to whit:

Things We Can Learn From the Babies in "Babies":
  • Pets are fun, be they dogs, cats, goats, cattle, or even a rather arrogant rooster.
  • Getting a bath from Mommy in Namibia is not all it's cracked up to be. (Think "spit bath", cubed.)
  • If you are tempted to leave me alone in the care of my older brother, cousin, uncle or even, on occasion, my own father, for the sake of my safety and well-being, please think again.
  • Crawling is better than nothing, walking is better than crawling, but running at top speed until I fall on my nose beats everything all to hell and back.
  • Song circles are stupid and creepy, no matter what language they're in.
  • The "I throw it down, you pick it up" game... man, that just never gets old, does it?
Things We Can Learn From The Movie "Babies" Itself:
  • American parents need to take a deep breath and calm the hell down.  Put the hand sanitizer down and back away slowly, folks.
  • It's amazing the amount of dirt human babies can actually ingest before their first birthdays and still live to tell the tale.
  • You can get both cellphone reception and wireless broadband anywhere, even in a yert in the middle of Mongolia. So why can't I talk on my cellphone in my kitchen in Reseda?
  • Song circles really are stupid and creepy, no matter what language they're in. (No. Really. I'm serious. Stop it.)
It's an entertaining movie, and if you can find someone who wants to see it as much as you do, go with them.  It's a sharing experience, and reliving the classically adorable and funny moments afterward is half the fun.

Happy Mothers Day.



  1. Happy Mother's Day, my friend!
    Loved your post -- so dang funny, and now I'm just dying to see the movie.

  2. Thanks, M3. Happy Mothers Day to you, squared. You will LOVE the movie, I think. There are some cringe-worthy moments, but that's mostly just our Amero-centric ideas about germs and knives and farm equipment and such. It's awesome. So sweet to see mothers the world over care for their babies with the same kind of love the world over (right down to the same baby noises and everything).



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