The Parents of 'Babies' Babies

It’s official: judging other mothers isn’t a uniquely American — a uniquely Western — thing. It’s universal. As is a mother’s interest in how other women take care of their kids. Oh, and no matter where you’re from, having your kid run with cows IS a bit frightening.

Focus Features has four very interesting follow-up interviews with parents of the stars of the documentary film “Babies,” which followed the first year of life of four children from different cultures. These interviews answer some of the questions you likely walked away with.

Like, what did the families think of the film? What did the parents think of each other? And is the San Francisco couple really as cringe-y off-screen as on. (Short answers: Good, admiration and yes.)

Read the full interviews here. In the meantime, some  highlights (and judgments, now that I know I’m just being human):

Tarererua, mother of Ponijao in Namibia, said she was worried about Mongolia’s Bayar, especially when he was running among the cows. (Turns out, Bayar’s own father was, too!). And yet, Bayar’s happy times alone with a roll of toilet paper made him, in the Namibian mother’s estimation, the happiest baby in the movie, cow-tramplings or not.  Tarererua also thought Mari’s mom dropped the ball, so to speak, during Mari’s much ballyhooed tantrum.

When the baby who was playing [i.e., Mari] and was trying to put something on a pole, then she fell down, I was thinking the mother [did] not hear the woefulness of the baby’s crying. I wanted to tell the mother to be close to the baby.

(I was thinking, “Put the girl down for a nap!” during the scene.)

Bayar’s folk wished that Mari could see something besides cityscape. And they loved the closeness of Tarererua and Ponijao. Asked whether there were scenes that concerned them, Bayar’s father brings up the cows and explains how it happened. And then this:

Also we were learning that we should be more neat and organized within our house.

Mari’s parents saw through the differences to the connection of mother and child. (And also hinted at a bit of defensiveness about all of Mari’s toys.)

And then, there’s Hattie’s parents. During the movie, we’re very aware that Hattie is the center of the family and the parents are Right There ready to serve (they’d probably call it “support”) their child. Hattie doesn’t like the bubbles? Mom flees the hot tub with Hattie. Hattie’s eating a banana? Dad’s there to catch the peel and other discards. Hattie doesn’t want to read and so she hits mom? Mom shows Hattie the book, No Hitting.

And so it is with their follow-up interview.

Why did they agree to do the film?:

For Hattie to have a connection to children from other countries. And, maybe once she’s older 12 or 13 to get together with the other children. I really look forward to meeting those families.

What are their favorite parts of the entire film? Hattie peeling the banana, Hattie talking, Hattie in her jumpy chair being active yet contained. Beautiful scenes? Hattie in the NICU; Hattie’s mom shielding her daughter’s eyes.

(Whew! Pardon the rant. Something about watching kids move about independently — or throw tantrum without rescue — must have made me cranky and claustrophobic when watching Hattie’s family, where there’s a parent visible in nearly every scene.)

Hattie’s favorite part of the film? She liked the very memorable scene of Bayar peeing on himself. Go Hattie!

What did you think of the movie? What about the parents?

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Photo: FocusFeatures

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