TWM Contributor Mary Red Clay wrote the following blog post about this movie.
Not long ago in my 11th grade ELA class, a student announced to all that she was, well, with child. The class responded with a mighty “ohhhhh.” The sound, heard in muted chorus, could have signified a question, a moan of disappointment, a hint of disapproval or perhaps a basic “you-don’t-say” response. Probably given the fact that there were nearly forty students in the room, all three feelings were communicated in that “oh.”
A wonderful teaching moment should never be ignored, despite all the brouhaha about standards and lesson plans and rigid adherence to curriculum. So, of course, I brought up the film Babies, which only two of the students had seen despite its popular appeal.
Two days later, we were watching this touching and delightful look at the lives of four babies from different cultures.
The students loved it. The film generated good class discussions as well as inspired writing on cultural differences, personal reflections and opinions.
One teacher in the faculty cafeteria said she played the film day after day for her three-year-old to prepare him for the birth of her new baby. She said the boy loved the film and after his little brother was born, he wanted to see it again. She is convinced that Babies helped her own baby and she said she could identify with the mothers in the film, empathizing with one completely and finding the other three interesting in their mothering styles.
A French documentary released in 2010, Babies was filmed over a period of 400 days in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo. This 79 minute film is a nonfiction gem and earned a PG rating because of natural baby and maternal nudity. It is honest and optimistic.
Babies would make a fine “reward film” in that the visuals are stunning, the interconnectedness of human experience is clear, and the babies themselves are pure delight to anyone at any age. The scenes with animals, such as the one in which the goat pokes his head through an open window to sneak a drink of baby bath water, are quite funny. Young people love the scene in which one baby bites another in protest as the two are involved in competitive co-play just as children everywhere go about learning how to get along with one another. The wee child who bit the other puts her head down in exasperation, a gesture easily seen on humans of all ages everywhere.
My class enjoyed watching our own mother-to-be grow in size, and she seemed to bask in the acceptance she received from her peers. She married the baby’s father and lives close to her own mother. I heard the other day that she is once again with child and loves being a stay-at-home mom. I hope she shows Babies to her first child to prepare the little girl for the coming of a brother or sister.
I must have gotten three or four good writing assignments out of the class; the best kind — writing that comes from solid interest in subject matter and the desire to think about and express what is on the mind, knowing you cannot be wrong in the opinions you communicate.
Teachers should view the film themselves and then possibly introduce the beauty of non-fiction to a class of any status, from remedial to honors, just to see the wonderful response.
Editor’s footnote: A year later tragedy struck. The child’s father, unschooled in how to care for a baby, was tasked with caring for her for a little while. The baby is now blind due to shaken baby syndrome and the father is being prosecuted. All of this is a reminder that at least in the U.S., teenagers should not have babies.