About Culture from Babies

Some years ago, I first saw the documentary movie “Babies” (Bébés), released in 2010 by French director and producer Thomas Balmès. At that time I thought it is a nice, cute movie about little kids and their everyday life routine, but now I know that  is more than that. It is about cultures and differences. It is about realizing that there is not right and wrong when we talk about cultures and about accepting people from other cultures as “normal” (here, I used normal because in many cases we perceive something that we are used with, that we grew up with as normal). But first, let me introduce to you the story of this movie, so that you know what we are talking about.

First I must say that in this documentary is only natural sound, no voice over, no narration, which was really interesting. Nobody explains you the events, nobody teaches you something, you just have to look and understand the message. Or the messages. It is a documentary that has an open ending, gives you space to personally relay on the events and learn from them. Personally I watched it twice and I got different messages each time. I think I’ll watch it again over several years.

The film follows the story of 4 humans in their first year of life. These little kids are not commonly picked, but they have something in common: they live far from each other, in different parts of the world, in different economical areas and different cultures.

Ponijao from Opuwo, Namibia. A little girl that has eight brothers and sisters. Her family is part of Himba tribe and they live in a village.

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Mari from Tokyo, Japan. She is the single child of two loving parents that live in Shibuya, a crowded, metropolitan area.

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Bayar from Byanchandmani, Mongolia. He lives with his mother, father and older brother at their farm.

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Hattie from San Francisco, California lives with her mother and father and she has a “green” lifestyle.

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After introducing to you the main characters, you can already visualize how the story will look. But I must say that the movie is delightful and I would not like to know that I spoiled it for you. The reason for giving you details about their lifestyle, family and location is a simple one: to understand the differences between the cultures that they were born in. Now let me give you some in depth details from my experience watching twice this documentary. While watching it for the first time I have to confess that I felt sorry for the babies that were not so lucky to live in a city, to have a wealthy family, to have activities since day 10 of life, and so on. I thought that Hattie and Mari have a normal lifestyle while Ponijao and Bayar seemed to me two kids that did not have the same chances.

I said that two of them have a normal lifestyle. Normal, judging from my point of view, at that time. And normal because I related these kids to me, my lifestyle, my culture and society and at some points they matched. I saw Ponijao and Bayar through the eyes of the society and culture that I live in. And they seemed to me so far away in time and space.

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When I watched “Babies” for the second time I knew something changed. I could see the details. I could see the happiness of every child in this movie no matter where he was living. They all grew older no matter the place, they all played and had fun, they all ate well and gain weight. So I asked myself, why to feel sorry that they don’t have the same culture and the same lifestyle as me? They are so very happy the way they are and I should respect that.

This is the lesson that these four babies thought me about culture. We should not judge before we truly understand. Plus it is such a nice documentary. Enjoy!

Online documentary here.

Article Sources: Focus Features

Photo Sources: Focus Features, Soda Head, Such Moving Pictures

By Roxana Miron

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