At times skewing towards the disingenuous and manufactured (especially in its strange regard to manufactured sound and the presentation of a timeline), this still overall winning look at life in rural Bhutan manages plenty of fascinating moments amid French filmmaker Thomas Balmès’s gorgeously picturesque setting.
Although television and the internet were finally introduced to the closed off country in 1999, it has still taken quite a long time to make its way to the rural area. Balmès (Babies) focuses on one rural family trying to adjust to the impending arrival of electricity by sending their curious eldest son off to become a monk before their newly purchased television potentially rots his mind and strays him from older Buddhist traditions.
It’s a dry film, studiously objective in scope to a point where Balmès has no point but to tweak scenes to a point where they feel staged without interfering with his subjects. The best moments of the film are the most natural beats of everyday life (like not having a clue how to transport a television on the back of a horse or a child eating his first bag of pre-packaged snacks), and those really outline the culture shift the country is experiencing the best. (Andrew Parker)
Sunday, May 4th, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1, 4:00pm