The Babies Film

A baby in Mongolia
Lee LeFever, via Flickr

Joshua Leo and Liz Waid look at a film that tells a simple story. It is the story of four babies in four different cultures.

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Voice 1

Welcome to Spotlight. I'm Joshua Leo.

Voice 2

And I'm Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

Mari lives in Tokyo, Japan. She lives with her parents in a small apartment. She is surrounded by the noise and energy of the city.

Voice 2

Ponijao and her family are part of the Himba tribe living in Nigeria. Ponijao lives with her parents and eight brothers and sisters. Their small village is far from the city and technology.

Voice 1

Bayarjargal lives in Mongolia. He lives with his older brother and his parents in a traditional Mongolian home. Their family farm is surrounded by the wide Mongolian sky.

Voice 2

Hattie does not have any brothers or sisters. She lives with her parents in the city of San Francisco in the United States. They live a modern American life.

Voice 1

What do all these babies have in common? It might be difficult to see. There are three girls and one boy. They all live in very different places with different levels of technology. They all have different family situations. But they do have at least one thing in common. They are all part of a film called "Babies."

Voice 2

Today's Spotlight is on the film "Babies." Every culture is different. Raising a baby and being a parent are hard work. And parents do this work differently based on their cultural beliefs. But all of them are doing what they believe is best. In the film "Babies" people can see a little bit of what it is like to raise a baby in a different way.

Voice 1

Alain Chabat is a popular French actor and producer. He had the idea for the film "Babies." In 2005 he brought his idea to Thomas Balmes. Balmes is an experienced documentary film director. He films real life. Then he puts the images together to tell a story. Balmes and Chabat decided to make Chabat's idea into a film. They would choose four babies in different places and situations from around the world. Then they would film the babies from the time they were born until they took their first steps.

Voice 2

They began to choose babies and families to film. But how do you choose babies to represent whole groups of people and whole ways of life? Balmes says that he wanted to choose babies growing up in different situations. But they really only required one thing – love. In an interview with Nick Dawson, Balmes said:

Voice 3

"We went with people who were happy and positive about the arrival of a child. It sounds easy, but it is not. Alain was saying all the time that we needed to have joy around, and from ourselves too."

Voice 1

Balmes and Chabat decided on the families before the babies were born. So they did not know if the babies would be boys or girls. Finally, when the babies were born, there were three girls – Ponijao, Mari and Hattie. And there was one boy – Bayarjargal. Parents agreed to let Balmes and other film crews record the details of their babies' lives. They agreed to be filmed for about one year.

Voice 2

Balmes began filming in 2006. He did much of the filming himself. But he did depend on some local crews to help him. In all, he captured over 400 hours of film. Balmes says that even though he captured many hours on film, there were only a few good parts he could use. And he could not be there for every important event. For example, film crews were only present for one of the babies' births – Bayarjargal's.

Voice 1

The film seems simple. There is no narrator - no one explains what you are seeing. Few words appear in the film - only names of places. People watching the film do not need to understand other languages. They do not even need to be able to read! In an interview with Peter Bowen, Balmes explained:

Voice 3

"Babies is probably the clearest, simplest documentary form you can find. I went there and observed and waited and sat and filmed. I did this without influencing the babies. There is not a single part from Babies that I could have written on a piece of paper... Every part was a surprise. These events in the film are so special. They will probably never happen again. You will never again have a baby in Mongolia in his bath and then have a goat come up and drink water out of it."

Voice 2

"Babies" shows how parents and babies around the world do similar things. But they also do these things differently. For example, the film shows how the babies get washed. In Namibia, Ponijao's mother cleans her by licking her face. In America, Hattie's father takes her with him into the shower. And in Mongolia, Bayarjargal's mother washes his face with breast milk.

Voice 1

The film "Babies" shows life from the eyes of a baby. People who watch the film imagine what it may be like to be the same size as a baby. They observe the babies learning about their world. Each baby is in a different place and situation. But they all learn about their world through their family and their experiences.

Voice 2

One way babies learn is through play. Parents may often think a baby needs particular things or toys to play with. But "Babies" shows that this is not true! The babies all have different toys to play with. In Japan, Mari's parents have given her many educational toys. She must try to put all the circles on a long stick. In the film she becomes angry trying to achieve this. But in Namibia, Ponijao plays with simple sticks and bones. And one of Bayarjargal's toys is a roll of toilet paper!

Voice 1

"Babies" is a beautiful film. But it also has a beautiful message for many people. Balmes explains,

Voice 3

"In the process, I understood that the film could be understood in different ways. And in different countries people saw it in different ways. In France, for example, some people saw it as a kind of picture with sweet babies and nothing else. It was just one sweet baby after another. In other places they saw the film being about our changing relationship with the environment. In other places, it was about our relationship with materialistic things. I love that the film does not have one meaning, but can have several different ones."

Voice 2

Hattie's father, Frazer also believes the film has an important message for people.

Voice 4

"We let our cultures divide us. But this film really paints a picture of the universality of being human. We often have a difficult time seeing this. You definitely feel like all these parents are doing the right thing because they are doing it in the spirit that supports the child."

Voice 1

The writer and producer of this program was Liz Waid. The voices were from the United States. All quotes have been adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called "The Babies Film."

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Do you like watching babies?


Avatar Spotlight
said on May 09, 2011

Thanks for “the babies film”, I like it so much. I think that anybody in anywhere if they listened the paper, they would like to make one or more album for their child from newborn till infant. And They would have a happy family.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 14, 2011

Hello everybody and good day all people in the beautiful world. I don’t know what also say just funny program at all.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 15, 2011

Hello everyone
The film has a really good idea and I hope I can watch it one day .The babies have their own great world .

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 14, 2012

I do not have a baby but I love them because they are like a white paper and lovely. If in your house has the baby , you are not quiet. I like films but not all kind of films . The little boy in this picture is so cute. Thank you for sharing this picture in this program

From Cambodia

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 15, 2012

I watched this movie and I really enjoyed it. I highly appreciated, not only because of good quality, but also for the idea. The film perfectly shows that we are part of nature and can survive in any environment.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 09, 2016

Babies are born in our world. They are loved. They are cared for. They are physically and spiritually cared for. Babies grow up in physique and spirit. They are cared for, taught and educated. They make the life beautiful. They are the future of the life. Spirit helps us live. We learn and train to become good persons of family and community. Each of us is responsible to the life. Each of us makes the life beautiful.

Severino Ramos da Silva's avatar
Severino Ramos da Silva
said on June 10, 2016

From: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) (Severino Ramos)
To: spotlight programme
Subject: answer to the question above
Date: Friday 10, June 2016
São Paulo SP Brazil

Dear Liz Waid and Joshua Leo:

First of all, I want to thank you to bring us readers and learners of English more one great article. Thanks!
Yes, I do. I like so much to watch babies. They are pure creatures and deserve all our care. I am a nurse and when I am working at the hospital in the pediatrics with the babies I like so much. They cry about everything. Just see our white clothes they cry so, they think we are going to take out their blood to do some blood tests.
Some of those children do not speak yet because they are very young to speak and another ones have already spoken some words.
However, they tell her/his mother that mom , please I do not want a needle. It hurts.  Or they tell her/his father that daddy , please I do not want a needle. It hurts. Therefore, their mother or father tell them oh my darling it is necessary to get better.

Your regards,
Severino Ramos

Kaleb Kolaibi's avatar
Kaleb Kolaibi
said on June 10, 2016

My ege is 41. I did not married befor and I did have not babies but I like babies and - of course - I like watching them and talking with them always.
The babies are angeles of God.

Avatar Spotlight
said on June 13, 2016

I have watched this film one day. I agree that it was beautiful
A message for me was how similar the babies around the world. It doesn’t depend from countries, different cultures. It’s so cute.

Avatar Spotlight
Carlos Alexandre
said on December 24, 2019

I really liked this transmission, it has a clear and easy text. My native language is Portuguese and I am learning a lot from this site.