Edge

“Babies” documentary presents infants’ maturation as a multinational wildlife feature

Hattie, who lives in the United States with her family, is one of four babies followed from birth to first steps in Thomas Balms' BABIES, a Focus Features release. Photo credit: Focus Features

A challenge for many filmmakers, especially those creating documentaries, is often catching action unfold from the very beginning. With this in mind, “Babies” earns its tagline, “The adventure of a lifetime begins.”

Directed by French filmmaker Thomas Balmès, “Babies” follows the first two years of four children from around the world: Ponijao, who lives near Opuwo, Namibia in Africa; Bayar from Mongolia; Mari from Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie from San Francisco, Calif.

The undertaking of this feature proved to be a challenge for Balmès who shot the majority of the film himself in 400 days over a span of two years.

“Making this movie was like running a marathon,” said Balmès in a phone interview. “It took three years of my life. I spent more time with these kids than with my own kids.”

Balmès began working on the film in 2005 when he heard of producer Alain Chabat’s idea for a big screen documentary on babies growing up. His vision was to present human babies as a wildlife feature. There would be no commentary; the babies’ development would be set solely to music.

“This idea is compelling because it allows for the simultaneous observation of four different cultures,” said School of Communication Dean Sam Grogg. “Because there is no narration, it translates to anyone that watches it and that can be very illuminating.”

According to Balmès, 90% of the film was also shot on a tripod. He used this technique to let reality materialize before the camera without him or his crew getting in the way of the natural development of the babies. This also meant limiting the appearance of the babies’ parents.

“Everything is shot at the level of the babies so we see the world from their eyes. By doing that I felt that this kind of closeness to the babies allowed you to learn different things and really dive into their worlds,” Balmès said.

Distance was a very important aspect in the making of this film. While to Balmès distance meant not creating too great of an intrusion on the babies or their families, he also used the idea of distance when choosing children from four very different cultures. His goal was to create a universal story that viewers could interpret without an initial agenda.

In the end, making this movie was about seeing the babies grow and experience the world around them, which was often a comical and educational experience.

“Making this movie challenged my belief in whether or not I give the best life to my kids, and that is what I am trying to challenge in my viewers,” Balmès said.

INFO BOX:

“Babies”

Limited Release Date: May 7

Directed by: Thomas Balmès

Rating: PG for cultural and maternal nudity

Running Time: 1 hr. 19 min.

April 29, 2010

Reporters

Alexandra Leon

Senior News Writer


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

It’s the play Miami Hurricanes fans will never forget — and Florida State fans are trying to forget. ...

Miami Hurricanes fans might recall their favorite college football players in past years dreaming of ...

The new quarterback is usually the ones fans gush over. For the University of Miami, last season it ...

Debate all you want, but University of Miami football coach Mark Richt made it clearer than ever Wed ...

Last year, when University of Miami tailback Mark Walton attended the Atlantic Coast Conference Foot ...

UM dining services team earns national recognition for special event catering. ...

From hammerheads to great whites, University of Miami researcher Neil Hammerschlag is a dedicated sp ...

An ACLU report authored by UM sociologists documents racial and ethnic disparities in Miami-Dade Cou ...

Following the summit between Trump and Putin, reaction from politicians, pundits and former intellig ...

A School of Communication associate professor played an important hand—an artistic one!—in World Cup ...

Miami senior Tyler Gauthier was named to the 2018 Fall Watch List for the Rimington Trophy presented ...

Miami junior wide receiver Ahmmon Richards was among those named to the watch list for the 2018 Bile ...

University of Miami junior running back Travis Homer was named a preseason candidate for the Doak Wa ...

Six former Canes competed on NBA Summer League teams, with three averaging at least 10 points per ga ...

Quick Hits gives University of Miami volleyball fans an opportunity to get to know the new student-a ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.