If you missed last years’ documentary, “Babies” I recommend you go out and get it. It is available on DVD and through Netflix, and I picked up a copy of it last week. We’d seen it in the theaters, but it is one of those films that I think everyone should watch now and then just for a healthy dose of perspective.
In case you haven’t heard of it, in “Babies” French film-maker Thomas Balmes followed four children from their first breath to their first steps. One child was in Namibia, one in Mongolia, one in the U.S. and one in Japan. The film was made without any obvious agenda, and there is no dialogue or voice-over to tell you what you should think about the images you are seeing.
In short, it is brilliant.
Mr. Balmes, in removing opinion from the film, allows us to develop our own about what we see. Overwhelmingly , parents I spoke to who’d seen it seemed struck by the same thing I was; that the children in Namibia and Mongolia, who played in the dirt and among animals ranging from dogs to roosters, cows and goats while sucking on discarded chicken bones or pieces of animal fat were every bit as healthy as the children in Japan and the U.S. who were living in spotless ‘child-friendly’ environments.
This film is a gentle reminder that our culture is overly obsessed with making the world safe for our kids. That ‘safety’ extends to what they eat, how and where they play, etc. The Namibian child plays happily covered in dust, exploring a dogs mouth with his hands, leaning in close to get a good look at the teeth. The Mongolian child lies on a bed in swaddling as a full grown rooster hops up and walks along next to him. (I can just hear an American mother screaming that the rooster will peck the child’s eyes out – or talking about the diseases the child could get should the rooster relieve itself while on the bed.)
By contrast the family in the U.S. almost seems ridiculous with their Mommy & Me classes and their child seat for the grocery cart.
On the DVD there is a follow up spot that shows Mr. Balmes visiting each family to let them see his finished film. All four children were 4 years old by that time, all healthy and happy kids. This, despite the fact that two of them were born and living in places that most American mothers would not dream of letting their kids play, even for an hour.
The film reminds us that kids are way more durable than we are mostly led to believe (at least here in the U.S.). They can play outside in the dirt without any hand sanitizer at all and be fine. They can loll about with goats and cows and be covered in all manner of mud and dirt without any lasting ill effects. In fact it might be good for them. As a chiropractor I know once said, “Eating a little dirt now and then is fine; helps develop the immune system.”
The trailer will give you an idea. Then don’t wait – go get the film. You won’t regret it.