It’s an international baby–pa–looza! We’ll start our documentary journey in Manila with an eye-poppingly busy maternity ward. Then we’ll go to South Korea where a kindhearted pastor takes in unwanted babies. Finally, we’ll watch four babies grow and develop in very different countries. Thoughtful, eye-opening and heartwarming, these documentaries are sure to give you some baby love.
Pack your hospital bag – it’s baby time! There are certain essentials you’ll need for your time at the Fabella Memorial Hospital in Manila, Philippines. It’s going to be hot: wise mothers pack a fan and bring a plentiful supply of water. It’s going to be crowded: be prepared to labor in a shared bed. You’ll also want to bring spare baby blankets to lend to your less fortunate neighbor. It’s going to be noisy: listen carefully to the announcements because who wouldn’t want to be harangued about staying pretty for your husband after you’ve just gone through labor?
With more than 150 births per day, Fabella Hospital is one of the busiest and most overcrowded maternity hospitals in the Philippines. In the documentary Motherland, filmmaker Ramona Diaz immerses us in the daily chaos of the maternity ward. The crowded conditions force intimacy and companionship among the new mothers. This is a safe space to gossip and complain about negligent husbands and boyfriends; to confide about money and childcare worries; to give and receive much needed advice.
The tell-tale “ding dong, ding dong” rings at 2am, sending Pastor Lee scurrying to open the baby box he MacGyvered into the wall. First, he thanks the Lord, then he unwraps the bundle. Will it be an hours-old newborn with the umbilical cord still attached? A baby with disabilities? No matter, Pastor Lee, his wife, and the volunteers at Jusarang Community Church welcome all babies.
Dismayed by the number of abandoned babies in Seoul, South Korea, left to die in doorways or alleys, Pastor Lee devised his baby box to be a safe place for parents to abandon their children. The concept of baby boxes is controversial. Some see it as a stop-gap solution that doesn’t address needed societal and cultural changes. Although Brian Ivie’s affecting documentary The Drop Box notes this, there is no doubt where The Drop Box stands on the issue. At the time of filming 354 babies had been left in Pastor Lee’s baby box.
Are you ready for 90 minutes of cuteness? In the warm-hearted documentary Babies, French filmmaker Thomas Balmès captures the sheer joy of babyhood with four babies around the world. He features Ponijao from Namibia, Bayar from Mongolia, Mari from Tokyo and Hattie from San Francisco. Wide-eyed and gummy grinned, these adorable babies grow from tightly swaddled bundles to talking toddlers.
Whether it’s Ponijao’s dirt-bottomed stick hut, Bayar’s felt yurt, or the apartments of city dwellers Mari and Hattie, all the babies just do what babies do: eat, sleep, fuss, play and explore. Ponijao may play with rocks and Hattie with a Fisher Price farm, but the fun is the same. Bayar explores the grasslands and Mari a city park, but each are delighted with their discoveries. If you need a smile – but not the sleepless nights! – Babies is an endearing way to rediscover the wonder of babyhood.