Baby Hers is not the first documentary focused on exposing the modern-day factory farming system and its repulsive and inhumane ways, but it does explore this topic in a slightly different way. By focusing on a common and relatable human relationship, the love between a mother and child, Susan Rosenzweig’s storytelling technique proves to be clever, compelling, and powerful.
The film opens with a scene of a new mother (Cristina Reyna-Neel) with her child, talking up the wonders of being a mum and choosing to breastfeed her child. The heartwarming story and shots of the young baby girl hook audiences, regardless of your level of interest in farming, as it’s a relatable feeling for some, and one we as audiences are accustomed to appreciate. The set up is excellent, and from the breastfeeding talk, it switches the focus to cows and the heartbreaking reality of how those mothers do not have the luxury of taking care of their child, and how that the milk that was designed to feed their child, is instead forced to feed us, humans.
Baby Hers’ emotional shift from happiness to heartbreak is swift, but it effectively translates that human emotion to the animals this story is centred around. Once it engages its audience with its opening, the film then moves into its strongest element, and that is breaking down the relationship of a mother cow and its child while intertwining that with the technical insight of specific factory farming processes. Most notably, it highlights how much of an emotional toll the separation takes on cows and how, by nature, when given the opportunity to be with their child, they are incredibly protective and caring. The details are supported by excellent external footage, which helps illustrate the points and while enhancing the heartbreaking moments in the narrative. Combined with the reoccurring pieces of text that appear on screen that helps drive the narrative, the story and facts are also effectively supported by various interview subjects that work within the more traditional farming sector.
In addition to the core message of mother and child, the film does do a good job of tearing down the myths of advertising like “Got Milk?” (Drastically changing the way one will view Dwayne Johnson’s entertaining 2013 commercial), and why this factory produced milk can lead to various diseases that plague the world today. Of course, while those facts are interesting, there is a desire to learn more about them, and unfortunately, we’re left wanting more in this regard. But with the length and story, Rosenzweig is working with, if people want a more detailed breakdown of this world, Eating Animals may be a better film for those members of the audience.
Ironically, while Baby Hers has moments where it focuses on tearing down milk commercials, it can almost feel like a forced TV commercial at times by overusing “adorable” close-ups of the cattle and calf. There is no transparency in this documentary, it’s clear where the filmmaker stands in the argument, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. However, those moments of the imagery supported by a slow soundtrack can feel like overkill.
In the end, Rosenzweig impressively manages to produce a fifteen-minute film that is impactful and meaningful, which has an abundance of content that is both informative and emotional. Baby Hers also successfully sends its message in a way that is relatable to anyone, and ultimately, does leave you considering your future actions when purchasing something as simple as milk.
Dir: Susan Rosenzweig
DOP: Matt Chauncey
Runtime: 15 Minutes