I watched the film Babies recently with the hopes that I might use a portion of it to illustrate the idea of socialization in my Introduction to Sociology course. I didn’t end up using the film but I still have a few thoughts about this 2010 film:
1. The film follows four babies: one each in Namibia, Mongolia, Japan, and San Francisco. Between the four of them, there were some contrasts. But I’m not sure there was enough variation in these cases. Outside of the Namibian baby, the other three families were fairly Westernized. The Japanese and American baby seemed to experience similar things. If the goal was to draw attention to how babies develop in similar stages yet do so in unique cultural settings, I think this could have been improved. This is a problem that also plagues case studies: cases need to be selected in such a way that they have variation on the key variables of interest (culture in this instance).
2. The movie has no narration – it is a compilation of scenes tracking their development and there is some instrumental music. This leads to a lot of “awww” moments but the film struggles to say something larger.
3. Some of the scenes were quite well put together. The shots of the Mongolian child seemingly out in the wilderness on his own (a constant backdrop of mountains and cattle) were impressive.
4. I know this is an inherent problem in a film that attempts to follow four children through several years of life but I didn’t feel like we had a good understanding of the broader context the babies were in. There was little or no information about their parents or families. I felt like we saw a lot of scenes meant to show the different stages of development but little of the full story. Since the film was somewhat short (just under 80 minutes), ten or fifteen minutes of this information could easily have been added though it would have altered the approach.
Overall, this was an engaging film as it is interesting to watch the children grow up. There is much potential in these scenes but the film as a whole struggles to make a larger point.
(This film was okay in the eyes of critics. According to RottenTomatoes.com, 69% of critics – 67 out of 97 – said the film was “fresh.”)