Baraka * * * * *

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Director: Ron Fricke.
Concept: Ron Fricke, Mark Magidson.

Released in 1992, it’s took me a while to get around to this one. It’s director, Ron Fricke, had previously contributed writing, editing and cinematography duties on the similarly themed and outstandingly powerful “Koyaanisqatsi” by Godfrey Reggio before embarking on this (his own) journey ten years later.

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I wouldn’t even call this a film. I’d call it more a series of moving images. But what stunning beauty there is to behold here. It was filmed by a five person crew over a period of 14 months in 24 countries across 6 continents and there are a plethora of images that will instil a myriad of emotional responses; they will enlighten and disturb, they will force you to ponder and wonder. In short, they are images of evolution and life and they will leave you in absolute awe of our natural world and the direct involvement we have in it. It explores different cultures and tribal rituals, it marvels at cloud formations and stunning sunsets. This is the flora and fauna of our environment in all it’s most natural beauty. If you can imagine Terrence Malick directing a dialogue free, documentary then you have a idea of what to expect here. It does contain a certain, loose, narrative structure and like the sublime, BBC, David Atteborough nature programs it is stunningly captured and assembled. As mentioned, it contains no dialogue whatsoever, relying solely on sounds and an ethereal music score, featuring the haunting and angelic vocal talents of Lisa Gerrard.

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Anyone familiar with the aforementioned and absolutely amazing, visual documentary “Koyaanisqatsi” or it’s follow up “Powaqqatsi” will know how much of treat they are in for here. If you haven’t seen any of these, then I urge you to do so.

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There isn’t much else I can say to describe this other than… the meaning of the word ‘Baraka’ is an ancient Sufi word that translates to “a blessing, or the breath, or the essence of life from which the evolutionary process unfolds.”
This and the extra photos I include speak a thousand more words that I ever could.

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It simply has to be seen to be believed.

Mark Walker

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60 Responses to “Baraka * * * * *”

  1. It is a special film, especially in its brilliant 4k presentation. A great demo disc to show off the picture on your TV.

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  2. Nice review. It’s a really beautiful and powerful movie and Fricke’s camerawork really seems similar to that of Malick. I’ve seen this a couple of times and it improves after every viewing.

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    • Thanks man. I’ll definitely be a regular viewer of this. It’s a stunning piece of work. I was a big fan of “Koyaanisqatsi” and “Powaqattsi” so I don’t know why I left it so long to watch this. If you haven’t seen them you should give them a go as well.

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  3. A 5 star picture I don’t think I’ve heard of! Good stuff Mark.

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  4. Good review. I definitely need to see this. It looks like the ultimate Blu-ray movie.

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  5. Is this out on blu ray? I might have to take a look, stunning photos 🙂

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  6. daveackackattack Says:

    Back in the day I got to see Baraka and Chronos on IMAX when it were only at the Science Centers here in the US. Later on I got to see Koyaanisquasi on the big screen with Philip Glass playing the music live. That was a movie experience I’ll never forget.

    If I had to rate the work of Reggio and Fricke I’d go
    1. Koyaanisquatsi
    2. Baraka
    3. Powaqquatsi
    4. Chronos
    5. Naqoyqatsi (too many digital effects)

    I haven’t seen the newly released Samsara by Fricke yet. I remember one reviewer complaining that he was frustrated that Fricke didn’t let him know exactly what he was seeing even though the credits and website listed everything. Yeah what these films need are a lot of text on the screen. What an idiot. The reviews were oddly middle of the road calling the film a glorified travel log, too preachy, too obvious, too vague, a repetition of the films that came before it. There’s been a total of six of these type of films. Just six over the last 30+ years but that genre is now tired. Jeez. My favorite bad review was “I’m not a big fan of this style of vague, imagistic filmmaking. It seems to me that since Koyaanisqatsi in 1982, for which Fricke served as the director of photography, every other film of this sort has been repetition. It’s not unpleasant, and certainly nothing that wouldn’t improve with the ingestion of a couple of tabs of acid, but really, that shouldn’t be necessary to make sense of a film. I’d be happy to have the lovely, 70mm images of Samsara as my computer screensaver, but I can’t pretend that they combine for more collective substance than a series of adorable cat pictures.” Cat pitcures? I’m at a loss for words.

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    • Haha! Cat Pictures? What a fool, man. I love these type of film’s. I’m a massive fan of Reggio’s stuff as well. I’d probably rate them in the exact order you have Dave. Although, I haven’t seen Chronos and really didn’t take to Naqoyqatsi. Too many digital images, like you say.
      I’d love to have heard Philip Glass provide a live music score though. That would have been something. Cheers Dave.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        There’s a section of film/music in Koyaanisquatsi called The Grid. It’s a 20 minute piece played over the fast moving images later on in the film. I remember be so totally entranced by the images and music that I completely forgot Glass and his musicians were even there. That film is in my top 10 of all time. Just stunning. In another post we were talking about Coppola and him directing The Godfather III. One of the reasons I gave him a pass is because he helped produced the film. Also it was his idea to introduce and end the film with the pictographs of the sandstone murals you see in the film. BTW Criterion just released the Qatsi Trilogy on Blu-ray. Sweetness.

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      • I think I know that 20 minute piece you’re talking about. Superb stuff. That sound like quite an experience.

        I can understand you giving Coppola a pass for helping out on this but does that mean George Lucas gets one for the recent Star Wars movies? LOL. He was also a producer wasn’t he? That aside, a Blu-ray collection of these film’s is a fabulous thing. 🙂

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    • Surely that must have been a joy to see those films on the big-big screen. And live Glass? Wow. Curious that you rate Baraka second after Koya, perhaps chronologically speaking that is correct, and the norm, and I would suspect it also speaks to your experience of the films. I am always conflicted at such labels and assessments but at the end of the day when I’ve gathered my coconuts and dog-eared Bukowski hardbacks, my ginsing and MRE’s, my battery powered Blu-ray player with solar power recharge station and the films Dead Man, Big Lebowski, Superbad, the 3 colors by Krzysztof Kieślowski, Alain Resnais’ hiroshima mon amour, Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, Chris Marker’s La jetée, Wong Kar-wai’s Fallen Angels & 2046, John Carpenter’s Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing, Coppola’s Dracula, ok…and I’m heading for my island in the middle of the ocean, I’d have to pick Baraka of the group because, well, it’s Baraka. I posted a link to my review down below. Heading over to where-ever you call home in the blog-o-sphere. You’ve got something to say.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Hush your mouth child. Lucas did NOT have anything to do with the movie. I think he was busy with a duck or something around that time. LOL. I have to say that the only movie that I have of his is THX-1138. Not a fan Mark. The Wiki page for Koyaanisqatsi explains Coppola’s involvement as producer.

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      • Haha! My mouth is hushed. Think it was Soderbergh who produced the third one as well, by the way. Have to say though, Lucas is lucky to have made more than one or two decent film’s. I’m not a fan either.

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      • daveackackattack Says:

        Yeah you’re right about Soderbergh producing the third part of the trilogy. You know him and Coppola are kind of kindred spirits. Both weren’t afraid to experiment with film and push the boundaries a bit.

        It’s a shame that the most revered Star Wars film, Empire, was scripted (Kasdan) and directed (Kershner) by other people.

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      • Empire is just proof again, that even Lucas couldn’t make the best film from his own franchise. THX was a great idea but a little underwhelming for me.

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  7. I’ve been meaning to see this for ages, hopefully this review will nudge me into finally getting hold of it. Great post!

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  8. A friend bought this for me on blu-ray for Christmas, urging me to watch it. I still haven’t, as I know how “profound” the film is and that it really is an experience. I don’t want to ruin it, so I’m waiting for the right moment when I’m mentally prepared to go on this journey lol. Good review and great images.

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    • I know what you mean Nick. I had it in my collection for a while also but the mood wasn’t right for me either. Finally, I got round to it and I wasn’t disappointed. It’s a stunning piece of work. Hope you manage to see it soon man. Thanks.

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  9. Stunning indeed. Not a movie, absolutely. An inviting look into our world and a captivating visual or choir poem of exquisite beauty and aching devastation all around us. I return to Baraka from time to time to get away and get inside the planetary confines of the world outside my doors and windows, to be awed by the composition that frames so well the jetsam and flotsam of our lives and with each passing year and each revisit to this film I learn a little something more about my time in the here and now of my journey. Thanks for covering this film with care and specificity. Always do in your reviews. I do not have the Blu-ray as others have mentioned but surely it must be breath taking. Thanks for this one. Btw, I covered this one over at my site, please feel free to drop by and say hello. https://rorydean.wordpress.com/2010/05/21/baraka-1992/ Cheers0>

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    • Very poetically put there Rory. I have similar feeling for Koyaanisqatsi. I always revisit that from time to time but Baraka will now be getting the same treatment. Such a beautiful encapsulation of our world. At times, heartbreaking and others completely awe-inspiring. It such an emotional journey. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting with such detail. I’ll drop by on your link. 🙂

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      • It’s my daily struggle to get out away from all the obstacles and excuses and distractions and read more good work. It’s inspirational, motivational; it makes all the lonely hours sitting inside watching the world moving around outside in unchecked possibility almost, sometimes worth the price your soul pays.

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  10. WOW, how could I have missed this? 5/5 Mark? You definitely picked my interest. I actually heard about this a while back as it featured a Kecak Dance, one of Bali’s most mystical and captivating dances. I definitely need to see this soon. Oh and I love Lisa Gerrard’s haunting voice, I could see why Hans Zimmer likes to work w/ her a lot.

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    • Make a point of getting your hands on this one Ruth. It’s a stunning film/documentary. It has such beauty that it’ll blow you away. I don’t see how I could rate this any lower than top marks. If you haven’t seen Koyaanisqatsi or Powaqattsi, then check them out as well. They’re all wonderful.

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  11. Haven’t actually heard of this to be honest Mark but it looks really interesting. I imagine it’d be good to just let wash over you. I’ve not really seen anything like this before but I’d be more than happy to give it a whirl. Great review man.

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    • Cheers Chris. That was exactly my intention when I put it on. I wanted something to wash over me but it turned out to be so captivating that I completely entered into it. Get a hold of this one man, it’s worth it.

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  12. This looks like a gorgeous film; it’s probably one that’s actually worth seeing on the big screen. I am fascinated by the meaning of the title.

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    • It certainly is a gorgeous film Steph. I think the chances of seeing it on the big screen are very slim now but it would be amazing. Next best thing is to get the Blu-ray and put it on the biggest tv you can get your hands on. Stunning stuff.

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  13. Sounds beautiful and kind of like that Life in a Day documentary.

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  14. What an interesting sounding film! Thanks for the review, Mark! I’m intrigued…

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    • It’s well worth a look Georgina. It’s so vast that it’s hard to put into words. Check out “Koyaanisqatsi” and “Powaqattsi” as well. They are also brilliant pieces of work.

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  15. Excellent review, I’m not the biggest fan of documentaries but you’ve convinced me to give this one a watch.

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  16. I have not heard of this one. Thanks for making me aware of it. I love visual films like these.

    Have you ever watched “Manufactured Landscapes”?

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  17. This is a fantastic post, muckers – but where’s my TUESDAY’S TRIVIA??

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    • Sorry bro! I had a bit of a “Dude” moment this week. I completely forgot what day it was. Haha.
      I ended up in the hills in my wee cabin and forgot all about blogging for a while. You’ll need to wait till next week now I’m afraid. 😉

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      • That sounds wonderful about the hills and the cabin!

        I look forward to it!

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      • Got stuck in a snow storm today but back home now. I often retreat there to get a break from city life, recharge the batteries and avoid things for a while.

        I’ll be catching up with the blogging world 2moro again. 🙂

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  18. Still planning to see this and looking at your review I should be in for a treat!

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  19. i like Koyaanisquatsi and haven’t seen this one. you give it a perfect score! wow.

    nice review. I expect it to be beautiful

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  20. Visit Website. Holy random spam!

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