Sunday, September 19, 2010

Babies Kick Off the Film Season

North of Superior Film Association starts its season with Babies directed by Thomas Balmes plus The Secret in Their Eyes, a crime thriller from Argentina. Thursday, September 23, 7:15 and 9:15 Silver City.

Here is the poop on Babies. “Blessed with no narration, an absence of gimmickry and an embracing love for its subject matter, Babies is a sweet, joyful and filled with curiosity as you-know-what.”--Tom Long, Detroit News
“ (Babies) might restore your faith in our perplexing, peculiar, and stubbornly lovable species.”---A. O. Scott, New York Times
“The film’s message is loving and clear: we are created equal, even if some of us have better access to diapers.”---Mary F. Pols, Time Magazine

There's nothing Hollywood or Gerber about Babies. But it will be hard to watch this extraordinary film and its adorable stars without a goofy smile.

This observant documentary offers an up-close-and-personal glimpse of four babies from vastly different cultures in their first year of life. It's no home video. The photography is stunning, and Bruno Coulais' music adds just the right soundtrack to this intriguing visual diary.

Director Thomas Balmès has a light touch capturing the captivating moments of early life. It's not a traditional documentary; there's no narration, subtitles or scientific information imparted. There's far more gurgling and cooing than dialogue.

The developmental similarities are there, but it's the differences in behavior and circumstances that jump out. We meet the easygoing Ponijao, her mother and other members of her Himba tribe outside her family's dirt hut in Namibia. Curious Bayarjargal lives with his parents and siblings and a herd of cattle on their farm in remote Mongolia. Mari has a toy-filled existence in a small apartment with her parents in Tokyo. Hattie lives a pampered American life in San Francisco with parents. She is taken to baby yoga, and a book titled “No Hitting” sits prominently on a bookshelf.

Some of the most riveting moments in this cinematic scrapbook are those most removed from American experience. Bayarjargal lies swaddled on his back, watching raptly as a colorful rooster parades around his bed, perilously close to stepping on the infant. When old enough to crawl, he fearlessly makes his way into a herd of cattle. No one is around to swoop him up. But the cows step around him and the boy obliviously ambles off. Ponijao exchanges a kiss with a roaming dog.

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