Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My interview with Thomas Balmès, director of Babies

Have I mentioned how much I'm dying to see the movie Babies? Just a few times, I realize :)  If you've managed to miss my other posts, here's a recap of the movie, from the Babies website:

The adventure of a lifetime begins…
Directed by award-winning filmmaker Thomas Balmès, from an original idea by producer Alain Chabat, Babies simultaneously follows four babies around the world – from birth to first steps. The children are, respectively, in order of on-screen introduction: Ponijao, who lives with her family near Opuwo, Namibia; Bayarjargal, who resides with his family in Mongolia, near Bayanchandmani; Mari, who lives with her family in Tokyo, Japan; and Hattie, who resides with her family in the United States, in San Francisco.
Re-defining the nonfiction art form, Babies joyfully captures on film the earliest stages of the journey of humanity that are at once unique and universal to us all.
Yesterday, along with another blogger, I had the opportunity to participate in a phone interview with the director of this movie, Thomas Balmès. Mr. Balmès has a very impressive resume and is well-known for being an independent producer and director of non-fiction films.   We asked him questions about how he came to make this film, and what he intends for it to teach the audience.

Mr. Balmès shared with us that this movie is much more than just a movie about adorable children around the world- it's a movie with a larger message and purpose. It's a movie that's designed to take us out of our comfort zones and really shake up our ways of thinking- to see that the "Western" way of doing things isn't necessarily the "right" answer.  This really hits home for me, as I'm in a cross-cultural marriage and there are sometimes differences of opinions on what the "right" way is of doing certain things with our kids, based on our different cultural backgrounds.  I need to be reminded that my way isn't always the right one!

The families in this movie were chosen for their ability to show one specific environment and the diversity of life. Mr. Balmès made it clear, however, that the families are not intended to be representative of their countries or continents, that it really is just about the environment of the one family on camera.  None of the families in this movie would be considered particularly rich or poor in their culture and the movie has no agenda of comparing socio-economics, it really is just focusing on lifestyles. One of the biggest lifestyle differences is related to technology - the movie ranges from the not-connected-to-technology lifestyle of the family in Namibia to the ultra-connected world of the family in Tokyo, with the other two babies somewhere more in between.

One of my questions for the director was "what was the biggest challenge of filming this movie".  Not surprisingly, the hardest thing was getting the important parts of these babies' lives on films without totally disrupting the private lives of the families being featured. And there was also the challenge to the lives of the filmmakers- Mr. Balmès himself has a family with small children and he was away for extended periods of time over the course of several years while making this film. Not easy on anyone!

Mr. Balmès wants us to watch this movie and enjoy watching the babies featured in it grow, but he also hopes that the movie will hold up a mirror to us a bit and make us look at other cultures and have our beliefs and ways of thinking challenged. The movie is not intended to be judgmental of any culture that it shows, but to just make us stop and think and consider. He also said, in the end, the movie shows that families all over the world contain parents and children who love each other- everything else is so much less important. 

The movie opens on Mother's Day weekend. I am SO there!

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post and received no product to review. Just had the opportunity to take part in this event and wanted to share my experience with you all. Any errors in this post in terms of what I note the director as saying, are totally my fault for doing an interview with my little kids underfoot.