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The Beginning of Life uncovers ground-breaking research into a child's early years

The Beginning of Life is a ground-breaking feature documentary that explores the impact of a child's early environment on their cognitive, social and emotional development.

The film, supported by UNICEF and featuring supermodel Gisele Bündchen and Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner James Heckman, is the brainchild of Director Estela Renner (Way Beyond Weight) and was produced by Brazil-based Maria Farinha Filmes.

The 90-minute feature documentary was created in response to advancements in neuroscience that uncover the crucial role that the early years of children's lives play in determining their futures successes.

"Effective early childhood development takes place when children feel nurtured, cared for, protected and loved. When children receive all of these key elements in their formative years of life, they have the best possible chance of developing fully," said Pia Britto, UNICEF Chief of Early Childhood Development. "This beautiful film, which we are so proud to support, depicts how social environments are as important as genetics in influencing children's development. The evidence should compel governments and policy-makers to act now and prioritize investment in the earliest years of children's lives – from parenting to care and early learning programs for all children."

Canada's children and families among those featured in global film

Filmed across Argentina, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, India, Kenya and the United States, The Beginning of Life documents the early lives of children and their families; and features interviews with specialists from the early childhood development arena.

"Making sure that children get the best start in life is probably the single most important thing we can do for the well-being of our societies," says David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "We're so proud that Canadian families play a part in this important look at what effective early childhood development entails. And we hope that by making this new research accessible, we can fuel a discussion among parents, communities and governments on how best to influence a child's healthy development."

The families starred in the film are from a range of cultural, ethnic and social backgrounds, including supermodel Gisele Bündchen in Brazil, and Phula, a girl who cares for her siblings by herself in India. Maternity leave, the role of fathers, co-parenting, poverty, child rights, violence and neglect are explored throughout the film, providing a unique basis and understanding of early childhood development.

"Emotional recollections for both good and evil have a much greater weight during this period, which is a time of formation, creation and structuring of individuals," said film director Estela Renner.

In a testimony in the film, Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences winner James Heckman said "taking proper care of our babies is the best investment that can be made in humanity".

In addition to UNICEF, the film is also supported by Maria Cecília Souto Vidigal Foundation, Bernard Van Leer Foundation and Alana Institute. It is dubbed in six languages and subtitled in 21 languages.

The documentary is available worldwide on Netflix, iTunes and Google Play.

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