Review: "Babies"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The trailer for the French documentary "Babies" is possibly the cutest to be released in years. Who knew watching two Namibian kids fight over a plastic bottle could be so engaging?

The film follows four kids from birth to first steps and everything in between. Ponijao is the youngest of nine kids in Namibia. Occasionally dressed in leg warmers, Mari is the rambunctious only child of parents in Tokyo.

In San Francisco, Hattie tries to escape the "Earth is our Mother" sing-along session her parents take her to. Bayar, the film's lone boy subject, is fascinated by a chicken on his bed in his family's rural Mongolian yurt.

This is observational cinema, with the filmmakers using an unobtrusive single tripod. They also eschew any voiceover dialogue, which can get frustrating during slower moments (and there are many).

"Babies" plays largely as an anthropological study of contemporary childcare, and it's definitely interesting to see the differences between the various cultures. Mari and Hattie are both overly stimulated by lights, sounds, toys and constant attention from both parents.

Ponijao and Bayar spend a lot of their time just exploring their rural environments with their siblings. Also noticeable is how rarely their fathers appear - they're often out tending to their cattle.

It's certainly an interesting cinematic experiment, but with an 80-minute runtime, baby fatigue is bound to set in. Fortunately, the cuteness factor remains constant - highlights include Ponijao trying to resist the urge to fall asleep and Bayar's bathtime being interrupted by a thirsty goat.


Opens Friday

Grade: B