Babies Movie: Through The Lens of a Young Teen

May 11, 2010 I tried to warn her, “This isn’t some wham- bam fast-paced action thriller or rom-com dramedy, but Babies IS my movie choice for Mother’s Day, ok?”

In preparation, I showed her the Babies trailer (after the jump) and the short little ‘featurette’ so she’d know there wouldn’t be ‘much of a plot line’ but more of an editorial commentary as seen through the eyes of French director Thomas Balmes (GMA interview here).

As a writer/producer by trade, my daughter is used to me trotting out indie docs, Heartland award-winners (Truly Moving Pictures) and exposing her to cultural anthropology in the form of Sundance art house films and Media Education Foundation favorites (with Jean Kilbourne’s new Killing Us Softly4 film just out, she can practically recite the media literacy messages, even if she doesn’t actually heed them)

Whether it’s getting her take on coming of age films like Going on 13, Darryl Roberts’ America the Beautiful Dare, American Teen or allied ventures with sister orgs like Tapestries of Hope and the Girls Rock movie, she’s used to grabbing some popcorn and weighing in on her verdict for what worked, what didn’t and what what she’d adapt to get the point across to youth. This time, with Babies it was different…As the final screen went dark and the credits began to roll, it was ME who blurted:

“Wait a sec, that’s IT? That’s the ending?”

She shrugged, “yep, guess so,” and stood to start collecting her things…

A beat. Silence. Hmn. She elbowed, “Well, what d’ya think?”

“You first,” I said backing off in that ‘don’t even think of pulling that parent puppeteer bit, I can whiff it a mile away’ authenticity warning.

“They were cute,” she said emphatically. “And the animals were amazing too…”

“Yeah…and?” I prodded…I could see this was shaping up to be a pulling teeth endeavor.

Mind you, this film is NOT akin to a ‘Baby Mugs!’ video circa 1994 with vapid screen time of cooing, gurgling kiddies, but it IS one of those quiet, highly visual films where you need to assign your own script to take it to a more profound level beyond nature/nurture powers of observation. Could she get there?

Could she assess and build her own story arch and powerful premise?

Moreover, could I?

The filmmaker in me cut to the enigmatic subtext threading through the ‘less is more’ messages of consumption and chaos and east vs. west simplicity…

…Benign neglect, unobstructed exploration, curiosity and hands-on sensory touch being the most sage, experiential lesson givers in the universe…(batteries and even parents, not necessarily required).

I tossed in my own wishes for a storyline hinting at the impact of media and marketing messages, globalization and infiltration of homogenization in the hinterlands…but that was clearly MY agenda, not the filmmaker’s.

Then I started having flashbacks of recent dialog with my own mom, especially having just surprised her prior to Mother’s Day weekend, where we talked about ‘just do it’ personalities and overt and purposeful ‘figure it out’ stances equating to ‘entertain yourselves’ parenting styles…

I guess that probably played a huge role in me becoming a creative director not to mention a vehemently indie spirit…(see prior posts on The Case for Make Believe part one & two on defending pretending and the value of unstructured play with author Susan Linn)

“Snap out of it,” I said to myself, realizing I was getting WAY too enmeshed in my own head and off track from interviewing my 14 year old.

I was wistfully spinning back into those “oooh, look how much that little blondie Hattie looks like my sweet baby girl” moments and “wow…how they grow up so fast, where does the time go” reveries and Mother’s Day mama media moments.

I’d already started media analysis of whether Babies was about the nature of humans,  an ethnographic snapshot, or a docu-genre of its own, all the while wishing I could have been behind the camera to peek into the cultural community/customs/attitudes surrounding gender, communications, indigenous foods and childrens’ health practices…

Then the marketing side started blending into the mix, as I considered the popularity of the new DisneyNature division, wondering if this indie pursuit would be snapped up and bought out for mainstream distribution and full tilt marketing en masse (I’d already noticed Focus Features has created a requisite  Babies iphone app social media sponsored Kodak Facebook sweepstakes and a solid 35,000 “likes” on FB already)

I smacked myself back on track and “into the moment” with my baby-lovin’ teen to move onward with my queries…(trying ever so hard not to slip into that ‘what if she gets the ‘awww cute’ factor of Babies a bit TOO much with all the teen mama media in play already…gosh, should I have a webcast of MTV’s Teen Mom at the ready? Did I even think that aloud, augh!)

“What do you think he was trying to say with this film? Or was it just documenting and observing babies in 4 continents, 4 cultures, 1 year? What was your take away? I asked.

She scrunched up her face in that ‘is this a test?’ circumspect mode and warily said:

“I dunno, I just think the babies were cute, and he was pretty much just saying that no matter where you go…well…there you are.”

Funny how teen talk can sound so entirely profound when you want it to.

“I mean, it’s not like he was trying to make any big deal statement about who learned to walk or talk fastest, right?” she continued…

“It’s not a race…and if it was, it’s pretty obvious the kids in Africa were mobile first, and they were playing with the rocks and eating dirt exploring REALLY early on.”

I’m thinking to myself, “wow, now’s your cue to just hush up and let her spill, see how far she’ll take this on her own…just like in the film. This is YOUR baby, even as a teen, so just let her explore and connect her own dots…they don’t have to be yours…in fact they shouldn’t be.”

Sure enough, she continued,

“The city kids with all the toys and books and classes and stuff had the same runny noses and meltdowns as the kids with bugs buzzing all over them…

…In fact, that one little girl, Mari seemed stressed out when she had too much going on…”

“Maybe that’s why he ended with the last child standing up…the one from Mongolia.” I raised an eyebrow in “I don’t follow you” silence…

“He was the same lil’ guy all bundled up in twine early on…all burrito style like a package…and he seemed the least active too…Remember? He was the one on the rope leash tied to the bed so he couldn’t get too far…and with the sibling I dunno..maybe he didn’t get out as much…”

“When he finally made it up on his own two feet, that completed the ‘circle of life’ for all four of them…kinda like:

“One year, two feet, four kids…‘the end,” she said.

“What was your favorite part?” I asked, and knowing what a critter companion she is, added, “And what’d you think of how those animals interacted with the babies?” (:20 sec clip above)

“omg, I thought that bath and the horns scene was just…wow!” And the time the hoofs and legs were all surrounding him and he pulled himself up on that barrel, I kept thinking omg, omg, he’s gonna get stepped on, save him!—I’ve never seen such mellow cats either…like stuffed animal toys being dragged around”

She paused, “Oh! And my favorite part? It was when he took the stroller and wheeled the sibling out into the middle of nowhere…That totally cracked me up…I have a lot of friends that wish they could do that.”

She wouldn’t know, being an only child, she lamented. (sniffle)

But perhaps that’s why she likes babies so much…she doesn’t have any in her own household?

Anyway, anecdotal review here, I’m not the NYT just a media/marketing analyst from the youth trenches here to report that for this particular youth (aka active, digital youth/texting teen) there seemed to be enough drama, backstory, and life lessons about the human condition and humanity to hold her attention.

Hey, that’s no small feat for a film with few words, and the only heart-throbs on the screen under three feet tall. 

Go see it. Then write your own plotline.

First breath to first step . Circle of Life. The End.

Coming to a theatre near you?

Just in:  STUDY GUIDE? To open convos…sheesh. NOW they tell me. 😉

Related Posts About Play/Simplicity on Shaping Youth

The Value of Unstructured Play

The Case for Make-Believe Part One

Defending Pretending: The Need for Prominent Play: Part 2

Generation Digital MIT Review &  Six Degress of Susan Linn

If Kids Could Be Dolphins: The Power of Creative Play

Seeding Green With Richard Louv

Media Savvy Kids and Nature Deficit Disorder

The Nature of Tweens: Wired Worlds & Outdoor Ed

Shaping Youth Through Nature, Media Unplugged

Can Somethin’ Be Done About All This Consumption?



  1. With the Babies Movie: Through The Lens of a Young Teen, one ponders if the teens are better placed to understand the babies.

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  2. I love that bit at the end where the goat with the big horns has a drink from the babies’ bath. You can tell the baby knows something is going on…but not quite sure what!

  3. Some great videos. The baby with the goat is classic!


  4. Bill Paine says

    Those two kids with the stones cracked me up. I’ve got two children right around the same age. It’s wonderful to know that it’s not just my kids that behave like that 🙂

    This is a great site and the videos are wonderful. Thanks a lot.

    Now back to what I’m supposed to be looking for – a way to get rid of my gout symptoms!

  5. I love babies,I used to hug them and swing them on my arms. I love to hear them chuckles.

  6. I adore them too…and the movie really brings the simplicity and innocence to life of how united we are despite different cultures, reinforcing the ‘one world’ POV…and reminds us to sloooooooooow down and enjoy our time on the planet with these wee ones.

  7. What a cute post! The babies were absolutely adorable, it’s always a delight to see kids. The videos were very sweet, it reminds us of the level of innocence kids have. Thanks for sharing!

  8. The pictures and footage of all these cute babies brought a smile to my face. As to the meaning hidden in the movie – it could be anything – all humans are born equal – there is no prejudice no race no competition when we come to the earth – that’s the thing with kids, you can learn so much from them.

  9. With 2 young daughters from a second marriage, I have an opportunity to appreciate children with the benefit of hindsight and being able to be based at home while they grow up. They are an absolute joy even when they are a handful and have so much to teach us. The same is true around the world, and the poorest of children are if anything more inspirational.

  10. Hopefully we can protect our kids and only expose them to what will benefit them (as much as possible, anyways.) I am really into organic living and currently write a blog on natural pesticides. No junk in our food!


  11. I’m not sure how I feel about marketing to kids. Even the more innocent things, like toys or games, can be marketing in a way that has a negative affect.


  12. Lots of nuance there indeed…(see my articles on ‘advergaming’ and such abt embedded commercialism under the radar) When marketing positive messages/outreach to kids works it can be magic, but all too often it’s putting profit over public health….You might like CCFC: Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. They’re a great advocacy group with much to say on the subject.

  13. Babies live in a world of their own, and find adults speaking to them in a strange language. To communicate with them, use pictures, simple sounds and colors. Works with my 2 year old nephew.

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