BABIES (Thomas Balmès, France). 79 minutes. Thursday (April 29), 6:30 pm, Winter Garden; Friday (April 30), 1:45 pm. Isabel Bader. Rating: NNNN
This guaranteed crowd-pleaser is an excellent opener for the world's premier documentary festival. For one thing, it travels to four corners of the earth - San Francisco, Opuwo in Nami bia, Tokyo and a small village in Mongolia - to track four babies from birth to first steps.
Director Thomas Balmès operates without subtitles because what the adults are saying doesn't really matter. It's the kids who count.
The result is a sly meditation on cultural differences. Compare the tots' experience in the hands-on, toy-laden San Francisco daycare with the freedom Namibian mums give their kids to play in nature.
The film gets close to romanticizing underdevelopment in the African village, but that's a minor issue. The babies are the stars.[rssbreak]