Saturday, May 8, 2010


The Film: Babies

The Cast: Ponijao, Mari, Bayar and Hattie and their families, neighbors and attendant animals.

The Dealio: French film makers follow four babies and their families for the first year of their lives. From Namibia comes Ponijao, from Tokyo, Mari, from Bayanchanmandi (Mongolia), Bayar and from San Francisco, Hattie. The only dialogue is what naturally occurs, and it is not translated for the film goer by the producers. Still, certain things need no translating: if you think a child is being scolded, you are probably right. If you think mom and baby are playing a games, well, right again. And so on. Each of the babies has his or her own distinct voice and personality, right from the start: Ponijao is persistent and curious (he studies what his brothers do, then imitates, flawlessly and triumphantly). Bayar is smiley and brave (watching him walk amidst his family's cattle or watch a rooster walk up to him on a bed, and you witness a certain quiet daring and panache). Mari is the most stylish and fashionable, but also throws the most impressive hissy fits (her frustration with toys that simply won't respond to her earnest efforts to 'fix' are hilarious, but also can make you groan in shared angst when that peg just won't support the plastic doughnut). Hattie starts out in neonatal intensive care unit, with a plethora of tubes and machines that go BING! surrounding her tiny face. She is the explorer, the anxious study-er (her face falls when her cat comes into view then disappears again. And she can't follow on her own... not yet). The last but one scene-collage shows the babies taking their first steps. All seem to be having a nice time meeting mobility for the first time, but it is Bayar's face which sticks with me most: pure, unadulterated joy and triumph as he laughingly puts one foot in front of the other, and actually gets to where he wanted to go. There is a crow of satisfied pleasure that had everyone in the theatre laughing along. Delightful, that. The final sequence brings us up to speed with all four babies present day. I do so love when a film maker goes to the trouble of catching us up on the film's subjects. To me, this is such a link-in to the heart and soul of the film and the film-goer. Aaaah.

The Grading Session: 4.71 pengies out of 5. Some deductions come because of an almost total blackout of fathers: with the exception of a shot of Bayar's dad taking him, (papoosed on a wooden board and swaddled to a fare-thee-well), his mom and older bro home from the hospital on his motorcycle, we don't get to see him. We get about four scraps of scenes featuring Mari's and Hattie's fathers and none at all of Ponijao's. Would have been interesting and added to the film. The soundtrack was at times engaging, but I felt it missed some splendid opportunities here.
My background is as a labor and delivery nurse, so you know I really had to enjoy a film like this (will blog on The Back-up Plan other-end-of-the-spectrum sort of dealio). And I did.
PS- this film is rated PG due to inappropriate scenes. Which left me wondering: which ones would those have been?

Lessons Learned: First of all this one: if you are one of the first 20 people into the theatre to see this particular film, you will be given a free poster and tee-shirt. Schwing!
Next: brother and sisters: first friends and worst nemeses! There is something pretty universal and comforting about this dual role. To me, anyway.
Lastly: another universal: cats and dogs- and, sometimes, even goats- really do put up with a lot from their pint-sized cohabitors. Watching Mari, Hattie and especially Bayar with their cats, and Ponijao with 'his' dog, I had my mouth agape and my heart in my throat. The animals looked frustrated but willing to go along with a 'game' they really didn't get. These lovely creatures just do not get enough credit for their native intelligence and casually nurturing natures. Let's hear it for the critters!
Enjoy this film.

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