Babies – Film Review


I met with cinematographer and director Thomas Balmés following an April 26, 2010 National Board of Review screening of his new film Babies. Traveling the world to document the lives of four babies, who are developing in front of your eyes, is a unusual job. It was a lot of hard work, as Balmés graciously explained.

Directed by Thomas Balmés
Review by Thomas W. Campbell
Link to original NBR review

Babies (2010) is a delightful and unusual documentary that follows a year or so in the lives of four children -; without commentary, interviews or text (except for the names of the children, which we see only once). It’s a mesmerizing and nearly flawless film -; created in a strictly observational style using the “direct cinema/cinema verité” techniques of pioneering filmmakers Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles brothers. Wiseman became famous for making films that unsparingly chronicled the inner workings of institutions -;with intentionally generic sounding names like Hospital, Basic Training, High School, Central Par. The Maysles (cinematographer Albert and sound recordist David) made films that often focused on unusual individuals, events or artists (Salesman, Grey Gardens, Christo in Paris). Wiseman and Albert Maysles are still alive and making films and Babies is firmly in the tradition of their best work.

Babies is directed and shot by Thomas Balmés, who’s past work includes A Decent Factory (2004), in which he investigates how a Nokia Cell phone factory is run in China, and How Much is you Life Worth? (2007), which follows the internal workings of a personal injury law firm. Balmés spent a great deal of time in preproduction searching for the right families to follow and ultimately chose four stable nurturing sets of parents who would provide the supportive care he felt was central to the theme of the film. The film intercuts between four babies on four continents: Mari (Tokyo), Hattie (San Francisco), Bayar (Namibia) and Ponijao (Mongolia).
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