Real Talkies

Real Talkies

Every cut is a lie. It’s never that way. Those two shots were never next to each other in time that way. But you’re telling a lie in order to tell the truth. –Wolf Koenig.

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October 17, 2010 , ,

I read that the french documentary filmmaker, Thomas Balmes’s friend hit him with a big idea.

“He said, ‘Why not do a wildlife documentary on babies?’ ” Balmes recalls. “No narration, just observing, being with babies on their level. I realized we could shift the perspective from us looking at the world from our point of view, to seeing it from the babies’ point of view – how they see their world.”

While the documentary makes Mongolia and Nambia kinda exotic and primitive, there are many elements that are wonderful about the film. Film is very observational not a judgment on parenting practices of the developed or developing world.  Both Mongolia and Namibia, you know, are not exactly pristine, untouched and in total tune with nature. The same can be said about San Francisco not necessarily representative of the west. But there is some truth in the fact that babies are universally the same – Curious little beings making sense of the world around them with all their senses, trying desperately to communicate and be understood. The film captures that essence.

When choosing the four families featured in Babies, Thomas says there was only one requirement: love. “I didn’t want a poor African baby or a rich American baby. I wanted four loving parents,” he says. “What I realized, and you realize in the film [is] whatever the environment is, the basic needs are fulfilled. As long as there is love, the baby goes well.”

The Cinematography is not only gorgeous but non-intrusive. Not having to listen to people talk or narrate and compare, explain and make conclusions is such a relief. The film is a pure treat, especially for people who find the prolonged nurturing phase of the human infant fascinating. The only mammalian offspring that is so dependent and for so long on its adults for nourishment, protection and well being.

The Nambian and the Mongolian babies and their negotiations with their siblings, wildlife, domesticated animals and adults is fascinating, hilarious at times and slightly dangerous at other instances. It is a bit saddening that the lives of the Japanese and the American child is kinda dulled out in the film, as if filled with routines and structure. Babies are babies, they do things even under the most orderly situations.


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