The babies are coming! The babies are coming!

Babies posterIn a stroke of French-inspired genius, there’s a new documentary coming to our shores May 7 (over Mother’s Day weekend ): it’s called Babies. If distributor Focus Features is lucky, the film will captivate audiences the same way March of the Penguins (also originally from France), Winged Migration (again, French) and Microcosmos (ditto) did.

The doc follows the life and times of four infants from disparate shores: Namibia, Mongolia, Tokyo and San Francisco. Directed by Thomas Balmes, the film will open the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on April 29. And if you’re wondering why I’m bringing it up now, it’s because I see a storm brewing.

The trailer for the film has been garnering coo’s and ahh’s from audiences; it’s being gobbled up on YouTube and by the film’s many thousands of Facebook fans. But I’m already sensing a Babies backlash.

As much as documentaries can bring people together, they can also divide us. I’m talking here about that line between what’s sometimes (partly) jokingly referred to as “breeders” and “anti-breeders.” Just check out this comment from Paul Dergarabedian, a box-office analyst with whom I’ve talked before and seems like a pretty nice guy. He was quoted in a USA Today article in February, and says of Babies; “I am not a baby guy, but I was riveted by the trailer…”

To most people, those aren’t exactly fighting words. But there’s a subtle subtext to a phrase like “I am not a baby guy,” which is the tip of an iceberg. Over at Moviefone, there was a recent post previewing the doc, daring female readers not to be smitten with the cute images in the Babies trailer. And you know what? The dare is called. A number of commenters go on and on about how they like puppies and bunnies and gerbils, but human babies? No way. I’m talking about responses like: “I LOVE animals and devote my interests to their welfare instead. I’ve held a baby twice in my life and found it disgusting.” The dialogue dissolves, as it tends to do on the Internet, into some pretty venomous stuff, including one advocating the abortion of some of the commenters.

But ignoring those trolls for a moment, it strikes me that Babies might really strike a chord in our culture, one that sounds sweet to some, and disgusting to others. Which side are you on? Or can the bunny-lovers and the baby-lovers just get along?

Oh, and, um, since when did the French corner the market on cute?

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen