Babies (Bébés)

DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 19min

DIRECTED BY: Thomas Balmès

Playing outside: Bayar in Bayanchandmani, Töv Province, Mongolia

Baby behaviour is universal and universally adorable, whether they’re squabbling with an elder brother in Namibia, tin-tubbing with a neighbourly goat for company in Mongolia, taking a rooftop spa bath in San Francisco or bundled up like a bratwurst in Tokyo. French director Thomas Balmès was a discreet witness to four babies’ first year, and wisely chose to allow everyone to be their natural, uninterrupted selves, with a bare minimum of dialogue from the participants and no intrusion from him.


The unstudied and entrancing outcome zeroes in on the newcomers’ wide-eyed guilelessness and absolute ease with who and where they are. Cultural contrasts are manifold: in Tokyo and San Francisco, Mari and Hattie go to playgroup, are flush with toys and come face-to-face with computers. In Namibia and Mongolia, the country is Ponijao and Bayar’s companion and learning curve. But each babe learns to take their world in wobbly stride and their every step is a shared celebration.