Ponijao, Bayarjargal, Mari and Hattie are from Namibia, Mongolia, Japan and the United States, respectively. The film is not narrated and has no commentary or dialogue of any kind. We hear snippets of the mothers and babies interacting but otherwise, the film is a visual experience as we watch the similarities and contrasts between the babies. It's an hour and half of watching cute babies that is captivating because of the funny, moving moments that comes with the innocence of little babies. Watching as a parent it's interesting to observe how other parents act around their babies and makes you think about your own attitudes and approach to raising a child and that of your native country and culture too.
The Namibian and Mongolian babies spend a lot of time outside, playing in the dirt, up close with animals and finding fascination with their natural surroundings. In contrast, the Japanese and American babies have entire play rooms with loads of toys to amuse them. The Namibian and Mongolian babies are never transported in a pram. We see the Namibian mother carrying her daughter in a carrier on her back only once. The Japanese and American babies are taken on all kinds of outings in their prams. These are just a couple of the contrasts we see amongst the four different cultures.
When it comes to the similarities, we see all the mothers talking to their babies as they start babbling, and encouraging them to imitate sounds and words. All four babies demonstrate the eagerness to explore that comes with their increasing mobility and of course they all experience the same developmental milestones, such as the struggle and achievement of pulling themselves up to standing for the first time. We watch them laugh and cry, eat and sleep. It's just the basic simple lives that babies lead but it's a really enjoyable film.
The DVD includes some extra features that are fun to watch too. A year after the filming, each family is given their own private screening of the film and we see the reactions and thoughts of both parents and children. I found it particularly interesting to hear what the mothers picked out to say about the other mothers featured in the film, things that surprised them, that they found funny or strange. There is also an insight into the filming of the Namibian family.
Have a look at the trailer below (to watch on an iPhone click here). The DVD is released in the UK on 28 March 2011.
If you've seen the film I'd love to hear what you thought about it.