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April 28, 2010 6:22 PM

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Child's Play

When I first saw the trailer for the documentary "Babies" a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. The film tracks four newborns -- one each in Mongolia, Namibia, Japan and San Francisco -- from birth through...

When I first saw the trailer for the documentary "Babies" a few weeks ago, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. The film tracks four newborns -- one each in Mongolia, Namibia, Japan and San Francisco -- from birth through first steps without much else in the way of narrative, or even any dialogue. The kids were cute, and the idea looked interesting as anthropology. But it just seemed to be a stretch for a feature-length production. It was with cosmic inevitably that my editor assigned me to cover a screening of the movie at the Tribeca Grand hotel on Tuesday night, where one mother had a slightly less restrained take.

"I just love the idea of this movie," gushed "The Today Show" correspondent Natalie Morales. "I mean, come on, babies! You've got a winner on your hands right there." As it turns out, director Thomas Balmes, a tall and bearded Parisian who has previously trained his lens on U.N. peacekeepers and personal injury law firms, is not quite Anne Geddes.

"It was real demanding just physically traveling so much; I met a doctor who told me I had the life of an astronaut for a year," the filmmaker said of the almost 400 days he spent shooting. "I could go and film for two weeks and only come back with one good shot which would make it in the film."

"Babies" begged an obvious question of the parents in attendance: would they have signed their own kids on for the project?

"I think that they both have enough to go through with me being their mother," said a deadpan Rachel Roy.

"Saturday Night Live" alum Ana Gasteyer, who arrived with daughter in tow, riffed on her family's shortcomings in the documentary category. "Fortunately I have a babysitter who's a crazy shutterbug... she just takes thousands and thousands of pictures and covers it for the most part," she said. "But we're pretty lame about it... we smashed a camera per child in the hospital."
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