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May 22nd
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Pregcellent

film_babies2There’s plenty to go gaga over in ‘Babies’
It took director Thomas Balmès four years to give birth to Babies—talk about labor pains—so here’s hoping local audiences consider the new film a bundle of joy. Chance are they will.

The engaging documentary (HHH1/2 out of four), which opens Friday at The Nick, chronicles the offspring of four couples from different parts of the world, tracking a year of their baby’s life—from birth to first steps. There’s a boy from Mongolia, a girl from Namibia and a feisty gal from Tokyo. Best of all is San Francisco’s Hattie Bradshaw.

Naturally, her parents, Frazer Bradshaw and Susie Wise, couldn’t be more proud. Bradshaw is a cinematographer. He actually shot a good portion of Hattie’s footage whenever Balmès was in other parts of the globe filming the other babies. Wise teaches “design thinking” at Stanford.

“I really love the observational nature of the film,” Wise told GT when we caught up with her. “I felt that the way it showed the babies evolving and learning was very interesting, especially when we live in a world where we’re used to going a million miles a minute.”

Bradshaw adds, “We live in a culture that tells us how we’re supposed to think and feel and the film offers a really different perspective.”

Indeed it does. There’s hardly any dialogue in the doc, and thanks to its four engaging stars, as well as the music by Bruno Coulais (Coraline), the film hopes to offer enough mental breathing room for its audiences to just “experience” something rather than be bombarded by it.

All of it, though, wouldn’t have resonated as well as it does on-screen without Balmès’ unique take on the subject—he really ought to be credited for re-defining the nonfiction art form. Less is more here and the doc’s voyeuristic nature charms. He’s tracking the earliest stages of the journey of humanity and manages to win the audience over with something universal to all of us—living, learning and growing.

As for young Hattie, who is now 4 and lives with her parents in Oakland, well … she actually watched the film. (That is … she watched as much as a 4-year-old’s attention span could hold.)

“She’s actually more of a fan of the trailer,” Wise notes. “She was curious about seeing herself but really fascinated about watching the other film_babiesbabies. She calls them by name and talks about them. She mostly concluded that she is a “girl.’” This after witnessing one scene from the movie that finds the male Mongolian baby lying on his back in between diaper changes happily relieving himself, creating an impressive arch of urine.

Hey … it happens.

“She’s really interested now in seeing it in a real theater,” Wise adds. “Hattie told me, ‘I am going to see it really big theater and be with my friends.’” Whether she’ll take her thumb out of  her mouth long enough to give it an official “thumbs up” remains to be seen.
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