Babies movie may violate child labor laws, critics say

A toddler who appears to be going over dad's business paperwork.  This brings to mind the new documentary entitled "Babies," which has some critics questioning whether the production violated child labor laws.

Does the new "Babies" movie violate child labor laws? (Photo: ThinkStock)

“Babies,” a new movie documentary by Thomas Balmes, follows the lives of four babies from different parts of the world. There is no dialogue but music accompanying scenes of the children in their natural environments. “Babies” reviews have generally admitted that while the 80-minute Focus Features film is cute, it may be too simplistic. Showing cute infants and heightening the mood with upbeat music may work in commercials, but in a documentary this tactic offers little insight into an infant’s life. In fact, less attention is being paid to whatever message the “Babies” movie may offer than whether the documentary violates child labor laws in its handling of the youngsters – and whether Focus Features will need payday lending to cover potential fines.

A ‘Babies’ movie that mishandles its babies?

USA Today reports that various sources are concerned over whether “Babies” subject Hattie (who lives in San Francisco) was dealt with in a way consistent with California law. In that state, infants must be at least 15 days old and have a doctor’s note and legal permits before they can be filmed commercially. In addition, California infants may only be on camera up to 20 minutes per day in such a venture, and at that time they must be accompanied by a nurse and a studio teacher for which the producers of the film project must pay. In the case of the “Babies” movie, critics claim they didn’t follow the rules with little Hattie.

‘Babies’ movie producer says the rules didn’t apply to them

This isn’t because they were pulling the “Do you know who I am?” card. It’s because, as producer Amandine Billot told the Associated Press, “Babies” cast the four infant stars while they were still in the womb. After their birth, they were filmed “in their natural environments, like a wildlife film of human babies,” Billot said. While no investigation has officially begun, the “Babies” movie team could face fines ranging from $50 to as much as $5,000 per incident if child labor experts decide to move forward.

Blame it on California

Perhaps the most fiscally hamstrung state in America, California could be a thorn in Focus Features’ side. CEO James Schamus is ready for a fight, however. He told the AP that no child labor laws were violated and vehemently stated that “irresponsible conjectures” against the “Babies” movie are just that – mere speculation. “The filmmakers more than adhered to both the letter and spirit of the law,” he said.

Will you see the ‘Babies’ movie?

Not all the “Babies” reviews are negative. In fact, here’s one that’s quite positive from Beliefnet.com, which claims that the documentary, while simple, is “meant to revel in the miracles, radiant innocence and fun nature of babies. You won’t be able to leave the theater without feelings of warmth, happiness and delight.” It’s a flick Sandra Bullock could probably use right about now.

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