Sunday, April 3, 2011

"Babies" - A Year in the Lives of Little Angels From 4 Countries

I saw this unique documentary that featured 4 babies from 4 different countries. They were patiently followed by the documentarian (director Thomas Barnes) from their birth all through their first year of life. We have Hattie, the lone Caucasian from San Francisco, California; Mari from Tokyo, Japan; Bayar from Mongolia; and Ponijao from Namibia.

Camera is static, thus the images give the audience the impression that he's just sitting across the room, watching them grow, crawl, get bullied by older babies, play with a spool of tissue, get licked by a dog, and get breastfed by their moms. There are no dialogs, and the ones that we hear are short and unscripted.

At some point, you tend to doze off as some of them get their naps as well, but on the whole, watching babies do their cute baby stuff imbues its audience with a sense of innocence and calm. There were a few disturbing moments: like when Ponijao (of Namibia) crawls down the dirt ground. He would pick up pieces of empty corncobs and eat rabidly like a famished animal. Once he drops the object, he goads his head on the ground, seeking for the object with his mouth. Whenever his mother's around, she would just stoop down and let her low lying, humongous breasts hang as low so Ponijao could reach for her nipple for his feeding. It was like watching an animal feed her newborn, as they reach for the "teats" blindly. I guess I am just a bit culture-shocked by this system, but it pays to learn about different cultures. The world is indeed such a vast place, and many lives are being lived far removed from what we practice as "normal".

This documentary also allows us to compare the different "rearing" ways people look after their children; how child birth comes about in each society; and more importantly, that regardless of race, religion or riches, babies are dependent on the love and protection of those who rear them. May the heavens bless them well.

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