Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 11:32 pm | Fair 70º

 
 
 
 

Cinema in Focus: ‘Babies’

The film follows the first year of four babies in very different cultures, and reveals our common humanity

2 Stars — Wholesome

The inspiration for the film Babies is a fascinating yet simple idea for which director Thomas Balmes gives credit to producer Alain Chabat. He thought that it would make an intriguing study to follow four babies from birth to their first year of age in four very divergent cultures. With virtually no dialogue, filmmakers take us inside the homes and very private moments between parents and children as they take their first meal to their first steps.

By interweaving their lives, the film makes it clear that wherever a baby is born and however dissimilar their surroundings, they are far more alike than different. From sibling interactions to parental humor to first words and first steps, these little ones of four different races share a common humanity.

Ponijao, in the isolated village of Opuwo, Namibia, lives in a hut made of wood and thatch. Crawling on a dirt floor without diapers with a mother who is ready at all times to breastfeed, Ponijao is intrigued by the flies and the dogs that share his world. Playing with sticks and stones and crawling in streams and mud, Ponijao is joyful and loved.

Mari is born in Tokyo, Japan. Living in a high-rise apartment above the beauty of the city, Mari has all the luxuries of Japanese technology, playing with cell phones and computers in the clean world of modern life. Joining in the social structure of mothers and children, Mari is a part of an orderly society with doting parents.

Bayar is the child of Mongolian goat herders living in barren Bayanchandmani, Mongolia. Swaddled tightly in a papoose of blankets, Bayar rides home from the clinic in the arms of mom on the back of her father’s motorcycle. Like Ponijao, Bayar is surrounded by animals and shares her bath and her playtime with her father’s goats and cattle. Full of smiles and enjoying crawling through the grass, Bayar learns about life.

Hattie enters the world in San Francisco. With parents who value “mother earth” as sung in the song they sing with her in a group playtime, Hattie nevertheless lives isolated from the natural world. Unlike Ponijao and Bayar, the dirt and mess are far removed as the vacuum and lint remover are part of Hattie’s normal life. But with her cat nearby, Hattie is given love and care as books are read and adventures are shared in her urban world.

A slow-moving film that won’t be enjoyed by all, Babies presents a slice of humanity that allows us all to understand just a little bit better the life we all share.

Discussion:

» The opening scene when Ponijao and his brother share the normal sibling interactions sitting on a dirt floor pounding rocks as toys is priceless. How do you see Ponijao’s siblings being similar or different than Bayar’s?

» The lack of dialogue makes this film all the more interesting. How do you think it would have changed had they chosen to do a voice-over?

» When children are born into such different educational opportunities, as shown by the advantages seen in just the beginning of life for Mari and Hattie, how can children like Ponijao and Bayar compete?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through Stripe below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >