Who’s a Cute Widdle Movie? Who is?
By Kristen Page-Kirby
True story: When I was first starting my son on solid food, I was very confused. Every book I read—and I read a lot—told me something different. For one, eggs were a great source of protein. For another, eggs were a one-way ticket to an allergic reaction. Some said start on vegetables—if you started on fruit, they’d never eat their veggies. Some said start with rice; others said starting on rice is what makes American kids so fat.
Luckily, my sister was friends with a doctor from Iraq, and I suspected I was working with a first-world problem (other examples of first-world problems: your iPod is broken, your TiVo didn’t record “Dancing with the Stars,” etc.). I asked her to ask him how they start babies on solid food in Iraq. The next day she emailed me.
“I talked to Hassan,” she says. “He says everyone breastfeeds, and then at around six months they mush up some rice and give it to the baby. And after that the baby eats whatever everyone else eats because allergies are what your body makes up if it doesn’t have anything real to fight.”
I don’t know about the allergy thing, but that gave me license to realize that, hey, kids grow up all over the world without baby cookbooks or jumparoos and they turn out just fine. Which is what brings me to “Babies.”
“Babies” is a documentary from director Thomas Balmes; it follows four babies for their first year of life. Hattie is from San Francisco, Mari from Japan, Bayar from Mongolia and Ponijao from Namibia. There is no narration; there are no subtitles; there are no explanations. You just watch the babies.
So whether or not you’ll like the film depends largely on whether or not you like to watch babies. I do like to watch babies, so I liked the film. There are many cute moments. There are many moments that are genuinely funny—and, to be frank, there are some moments that are startling. Bayar spends a lot of unsupervised time around livestock, which is kind of shocking if you’re used to the unending chorus of “never leave the baby alone with any animal including your housecat because the cat might KILL THE BABY.” Ponijao quite literally eats dirt (without his mom freaking out and yelling “NO NO DIRTY YUCKY”) and poops on his mom, who calmly wipes it off with a corncob. If allergies do, in fact, result from protecting our kids from dirt and germs, I’m relatively certain Ponijao will not be sitting at the peanut-free table in kindergarten.
You do get to see commonalities, of course. I enjoyed watching Bayar with his older brother, who serves partially as companion and partially as nemesis (a time when he torments his little brother while quite clearly looking at the camera operator to see if a punishment is forthcoming is particularly funny.)
There is no objectionable material in this movie. I guess it’s rated PG because Ponijao’s mom and her female peers are topless throughout, though it’s clear it’s for easy access for nursing and isn’t sexual in any way. And there is plenty of nursing footage, though if you’d like to complain about that, why not come to my office and we’ll have a little talk about why you are wrong.
So, if you like watching Babies, you should watch “Babies.” You might learn a few things, you might just laugh at Bayarjargal eating toilet paper. But if there’s anything profound to learn, it’s that, though child-rearing varies from place to place, children are pretty much the same the world over.
Don’t feel like going to the theater? New on DVD this week is “The Tooth Fairy.”
Want to find something else to do? Check out our calendar of activities.
Kristen Page-Kirby is the editor of Chesapeake Family Magazine. She last reviewed “The Runaways.” Read her review here.