Thomas Balmes’ French documentary of four babies living the first year of their lives in four different parts of the world: Ponijao, the 9th child born in a matriarchal society in Nambia; Bayar, the younger of two children of two Mongolian herders; Mari, born to a middle-class couple in Tokyo; and Hattie, the daughter of a yuppie San Francisco couple, is captivating.
Without a word of narrative and minimal music, the phenomenal photography tells the story of the wonder of new life, drawing a telling dichotomy between a the way the yuppie San Francisco couple raise their child with bottle feeding, yoga classes, and cleaning her with a lint roller vs. the way the half naked African woman raises her naked child, breast-feeding and hands-on, as the baby crawls in the dirt, plays with goats, and drinks out of creeks.
The cinematography is prodigious. Several of the babies are caught taking their first steps. One memorable scene is when the African baby grabs her brother’s genitals and then checks out what she’s got.
There are so many scenes of touching, memorable acts of becoming a person that the movie has to be seen to be appreciated.