Everyone has their own beliefs. Everyone has their own opinions. Everyone also has a mother. This can be difficult to remember, especially during election season, when divisiveness from all parties promotes an Us vs. Them mentality. But it’s true: every person on earth was once a tiny baby. Granted, that tiny baby probably came with its own built-in set of neuroses and was eventually corrupted by society or its parents. But, the neurotic, corrupt people you deal with everyday were in fact once tiny babies, and remembering that can help you 1. feel more compassion for them, 2. realize everyone came from the same place, and 3. not hate their disagreeing guts.
I’ll admit that I sometimes have a hard time liking humanity. Human beings have done a lot of awful things and caused a lot of suffering over the course of their violent and destructive history. Wars, pollution, animal cruelty. Yes, I am at times ashamed to be a member of the human race.
So when I first saw the trailer for the documentary Babies earlier this year, my first thought wasn’t exactly, Ooooo yaaaaay!!!! Tiny humans!!! They’re sooooo cuuuuuteeeeee!!! Yet this past weekend I found myself in possession of said film for a limited amount of time and decided to see what it was all about (in addition to babies, obviously). The cinematography looked stunning from the preview, so I planned to at least enjoy that.
I have not laughed so much or so hard in months. Babies follows four newborns from around the world through the first year of their life. There is no dialogue, and no commentary. The cinematography is in fact gorgeous, but it is the glimpse into humanity in one of its rawest forms that remains with you long after the film ends.
The four babies are born into starkly different lives, yet all share an innate joy that transcends all geographical, economical, and sociological boundaries. Interestingly, however, you can see in a mere 79 minutes how the babies’ immediate contact with others and their environment is shaping them into the adults they will become.
Ponijao and Bayar, from Namibia and Mongolia respectively, are independent, curious, and react sincerely and freely to their surroundings. Though both are from poorer regions of the world, Ponijao and Bayar seem dramatically happier and more fulfilled than Hattie and Mari, from the U.S. and Japan respectively. Hattie is constantly looking to her over-involved parents for approval and help, while Mari seems overwhelmed by her vast amounts of toys. As their first years progress, both Hattie and Mari seem to lose their initial ability to organically interact with others and their environment, while Ponijao and Bayar continue to develop social and personal intelligence.
Babies reveals many truths. Though the West is fairly certain that their way is the best, this film provides evidence that perhaps there are other, more successful ways to raise a child. Additionally, it affords the opportunity to see humanity in its purest form (though not completely pure, I would argue.) Watching the babies gave a me a little soft spot for humanity. Unfortunately, my heart also breaks worrying how these little people might be hurt or cause hurt in their futures.
These heavy things aside, this movie made me laugh until I couldn’t breath. The situations the babies get themselves into and their reactions are so genuine and hysterical it is almost unbearable. See this movie for the sociological insight or see this movie to see tiny babies doing hilarious things, but either way, see this movie.