The Beginning of Life documentary

Available on Netflix and other platforms, and in multiple languages, the documentary The Beginning of Life (O Começo da Vida) emotionally brings to life the science behind the importance of loving relationships in a child’s early years. Interviews with experts are interspersed with footage of parents and children from nine countries across four continents.

Interplay between genes and environment

Estela Renner, co-founder of the production company Maria Farinha Filmes, describes the process of working on the film, with co-funding from the Alana Institute, Maria Cecilia Souto Vidigal Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and UNICEF:

We began by spending a long time assembling and studying research, to understand what angle the film would take. We were intrigued to read about how children are determined not by their genes alone, but by the interplay between genetics and the environment in which they grow up. What are the most important elements of the environment, and children’s interactions with it? Do people know about this, and value it?

So we began to write and shoot the film with a focus on the importance of loving relationships between babies and mums, dads, siblings, teachers, grandparents and caregivers – and the relationships between children and nature, children and play, children and the stories that are told to them.

Reaching a broad audience

The Beginning of Life became most-watched Brazilian documentary of 2016, according to national cinema agency ANCINE. In its first three months, over 178,000 people had seen it in theatres and at special screenings. It topped the Brazilian iTunes charts. Six thousand screenings in 74 countries were organised during 2016 via the online platform

The film was publicised by leading brands of baby products, including Johnson & Johnson (Johnson’s Baby), Kimberly Clark (Huggies), Hypermarcas (Pom Pom) and Natura. The Brazilian footballer Kaka tweeted his 26 million followers that the film had inspired him as a father. The influential blog Mil maneiras de maternar (A Thousand Ways to Mother) asked: ‘Why not play the film on TVs in the maternity ward? It should be prescribed by the obstetrician.’

UNICEF adopted the film as part of its global early childhood development campaign in 2017.