Last Thursday I had the privilege to watch a fantastic silent film called Babies. The movie is not exactly a silent film but I have no direct dialogue from any of the “main characters.” The film depicts many segments of four babies who are born in four culturally different areas of the world. The film, in my opinion, was design to illustrate the similarities between each child, despite being born to different parents and raised in different cultures.
The first child we are introduced to is Ponijao from Namibia. Born in a hut in the local village of Namibia, Ponijao’s mother takes little preparation before giving birth. A few ceremonial rituals are done and she ready to give birth. Although the birthing process seemed archaic, the baby that is delivered acts the same way any child does once it’s born. After taking a look at how the other children are born, we are reconnected with Ponijao where he is always amongst company. Whether It is his older brother watching over him or his mother has him on her back while she works, the child is always looked after. Like most children, Ponijao is seen playing around in the dirt and exploring his surroundings by crawling around. Ponijao is also well groomed after his mother by having his head shaved regularly. Not to mention his mother also keeps him well fed by breast feeding him whenever possible. Finally we are assured how relatable the people in Namibia are to us in the USA by showing Ponijao’s mother playing with him and helping him stand up once and for all.
Next we meet Bayar who is from Mongolia. Bayar’s mother prepares herself by doing a ritual dance before the birth. However, this time she is giving birth in a hospital far away from her home in her local village. Once Baya is born, he is immediately swaddled in blankets. This is largely due to the traveling he must take to get back to his home far from the hospital. Once Bayar arrives at home, he spends most of his time inside his family’s hut. He can be seen using a pacifier that is made from something organic that matches something we would use in the states. While his mother is not always present in the hut, Bayar is usually accompanied by his older brother who watches over him. Another similar trait Bayar had to babies in the U.S. is his tendencies to cry for attention. This can be seen when he is being spoon fed or if his brother is teasing him. Discipline is also witnessed when his mother gives him a slight spank when he is misbehaving. Additionally, Bayar plays around just like any child would and eventually finding the will to stand on his own.
Thirdly, we meet the first girl in the film known as Mari from Japan. Starting of rather different than the other two, Mari is born in a big city full of lights and technology. Mari is born in a hospital quite like the ones we have in the United States. Once Mari is born, Japanese characters are written on her feet. This could indicate her name or be some ritualistic symbolism in her culture. Breast feeding is again, something that is made clear in Mari’s culture. Along with a father who is present a large portion of the time. Similar to us, Mari’s parents take her to a day care service during work hours. Along with the care she is given at the daycare, Mari receives plenty of time with her parents when play with her in singing and exercises that keep her entertained. Mari is also accompanied by other children whose parents have joined with Mari’s parents on this parenthood journey. Finally we see Mari enjoying a birthday party and learning to stand.
Lastly we finally meet Hattie from California who is the other female child in this film. Very similar to Mari than her counter parts, Hattie is again born in a hospital full of medical devices and ways to keep her safe. Again we see the father taking the time to be with the child while he reads to her. He also goes to the next level by taking a shower with Hattie to give her a full bath experience, which she enjoys immensely. With Hattie, we see there is a higher degree to keep her safe from any sorts of danger. For example, we see Hattie with socks or mittens on her hands to protect her from her scratching herself. She is also bottle fed rather than breast fed which can vary in the United States. Hattie also receives regular medical checkups to make sure she is in full health. We also see Hattie strapped in bouncy chairs that keep her entertained and safe from running around when her mother is occupied. Cleanliness is apparent when it comes to Hattie because we witness her father giving her a lint roller rub down from any dust or hair. Again we also see parents, specifically mothers, grouping together to help each other with child raising. Lastly, we see Hattie’s parents taking her out for a bike ride and witnessing her first steps in life.
In conclusion, Filmmaker Thomas Balme allows us to witness the first steps of life in this film. By following Ponijao, Bayar, Mari, and Hattie, we get a chance to understand and realize how similar we are to other cultures when it comes to our children. Take this opportunity to realize that we are not so different from each other and that we should embrace and respect other cultures.