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A masterpiece in nonverbal filmmaking.
March 16, 2007 3:08 PM   Subscribe

Baraka is an astonishing film voyaging six continents and twenty-four countries. Directed by Ron Fricke, it is a visual tour de force painstakingly shot on Todd AO-70mm film. Information on the film (and its upcoming sequel!) can be found here or you can always watch the making of.
posted by ageispolis (48 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
A personal favourite, although it's a shame that Philip Glass didn't do the soundtrack, as he had done for the previous ones, koyaanisqatsi & powaaqatsi.

the dead can dance ethno music just doesn't do it for me in baraka. best to turn the volume down & put on the koyaanisqatsi soundtrack instead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:13 PM on March 16, 2007


The soundtrack is still wonderful, even without Glass.
posted by dws at 3:15 PM on March 16, 2007


I have Baraka on DVD. I also recommend Fricke's Chronos.
posted by ericb at 3:15 PM on March 16, 2007


An excerpt from Chronos.
posted by ericb at 3:17 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


sequel?!

thank you.

baraka changed my life
posted by blastrid at 3:23 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


The monkey chant rewlz.
posted by kalessin at 3:25 PM on March 16, 2007


Awhile ago, they had a showing of all three films in San Francisco, accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony, directed by Glass.

I had to work that night.
posted by roll truck roll at 3:26 PM on March 16, 2007


I've always thought this movie pretty neat, but also somewhat overrated given the intensity of its following.
posted by Alex404 at 3:27 PM on March 16, 2007


One of my top 10 favorite films.
posted by bshort at 3:33 PM on March 16, 2007


I enjoyed Baraka I wished I had a chance to see it in the theater when it came out. Need to see the sequel in the theater for sure.
posted by nola at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2007


Awhile ago, they had a showing of all three films in San Francisco, accompanied by the San Francisco Symphony, directed by Glass.

A coupla years back, Glass & his eponymous ensemble played the score of Koyaanisqatsi live in the Sydney Opera House as the film screened.

It was mindblowingly awesome, as you would expect, although one wag in the letters-to-the-editor page of the Sydney Morning Herald quipped "finally - a concert in the Opera House where I didn't get annoyed by people's mobile phones ringing during the performance - it just blended in harmoniously with the music!"
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:35 PM on March 16, 2007


Koyaanisqatsi is one of my all time favorites. Powaqqatsi and Baraka are also very good, but I don't think Naqoyqatsi or Chronos are all that successful. The last time I watched Koyaanisqatsi, it occurred to me that you could remake the entire movie in GTA: San Andreas. If I had the time....
posted by muckster at 3:49 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


One of my favorite films ever. I think it surpasses the Qatsi Trilogy by far. Almost everyone I've shown it to was deeply affected by it.
posted by basicchannel at 3:49 PM on March 16, 2007


Did someone say baraka-bama?
posted by mmrtnt at 3:56 PM on March 16, 2007


Awesome that it's available to view online, but please please please, folks - this is one movie which benefits immeasurably from a big screen in a darkened room, to a 2001: A Space Odyssey degree. Also plays well with stoners.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 4:07 PM on March 16, 2007


Our Daily Bread and Into Great Silence are two recent nonverbal movies that are well worth checking out. They're not quite like the Reggio/Fricke films--neither one has music--but the themes are similar. Into Great Silence is still in theaters; I don't think Our Daily Bread is out on US DVD yet.
posted by muckster at 4:13 PM on March 16, 2007


These are all well and good, and kind of interesting. However, they left me somewhat unfulfilled. I think it's very hard to do travelogues in that way without being a little sparing with actual substance.

The best movie with that kind of feel, and one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life, is Chris Marker's Sans Soleil.
posted by koeselitz at 4:16 PM on March 16, 2007


Baraka seems to be a mainstay of Canadian rep cinemas - for the midnight screenings when you're pretty much expected to be baked off your ass.
posted by Flashman at 4:26 PM on March 16, 2007


...and you can sync it with The Flaming Lips "At War With The Mystics"!
posted by soundofsuburbia at 4:37 PM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


Baraka, is, of course, the Arabic word for Grace.

Not so much in the sense of 'graceful', but more along the lines of 'by the Grace of God', al-hamdu-l'illah.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:47 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


...and you can sync it with The Flaming Lips "At War With The Mystics"!

ooooooooh!

*plans to get toasted off arse*
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:48 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz said:

The best movie with that kind of feel, and one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my life, is Chris Marker's Sans Soleil.

and I couldn't agree more. Sans Soleil is a remarkable movie.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:08 PM on March 16, 2007


I am At War With Baraka.
posted by PEAK OIL at 6:27 PM on March 16, 2007


A minor correction : the director of Baraka, Ron Fricke, was the cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi. He's not listed as part of Powaqqatsi or Naqoyqatsi.

Now I must go meet up with a bong and a copy of At War with the Mystics.
posted by suckerpunch at 6:32 PM on March 16, 2007


I am At War With Baraka.

Wait ... is this like queueing up Pink Floyd's 'Dark Side of the Moon' with 'The Wizard of Oz?'
posted by ericb at 6:51 PM on March 16, 2007


ericb: I don't know. I always thought Floyd/Oz was a bit silly. But after having watched At War With Baraka, I actually have trouble watching the original.

It just seems too slow and pretentious, despite the fact that I used to like it a lot.

The only down-side of the At War With edit is you miss some of the footage from the original, as it is trimmed to album length, starting late and ending early.
posted by PEAK OIL at 6:59 PM on March 16, 2007


Baraka is incredible film and thanks for posting the interesting links. However, minus the connection of Fricke, it has nothing to do with the Godfrey Reggio/Philip Glass Qatsi trilogy. Seems to be a common misconception...
posted by inoculatedcities at 7:06 PM on March 16, 2007


Just watched At War With Baraka again.

So. Good.

I just wish Baraka was available on HD-DVD or BluRay.
posted by PEAK OIL at 8:20 PM on March 16, 2007


As soon as I read the word Baraka on this post, the image of fluffy little yellow chicks getting their tiny beaks shaved off (in a factory assembly line, no less) came to mind. I think that part really got to me.

That said, amazing visuals. See it on the big screen if you can.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:23 PM on March 16, 2007 [1 favorite]


I actually didn't like Baraka very much; I believe it suffers from a typical early-90s preoccupation with "world culture" -- a kind of neo-orientalism that fetishizes Balinese kachak and African dancers as somehow more "authentic" or "real" than the thousands of miracles that surround us every day, even as privileged western urban-dwellers.

That said, I loved Koyaanisqatsi.
posted by xthlc at 9:00 PM on March 16, 2007 [2 favorites]


This has already been said, but I had to echo it: please please PLEASE go get this via Netflix or Amazon or somesuch. the google video does NOT do it justice.
posted by tarheelcoxn at 10:23 PM on March 16, 2007


I saw it on the big screen, at a local rep theatre that was about to close. A friend sent around an e-mail saying that there would be a screening of one of the best films ever made, a life-changing photographic journey set to music.

And with all respect to people here, my god, I hated Baraka, with its ham-fisted wordless commentary, frying-pan-over-the-head subtlety and grinding inevitability. Less life-changing than evening-ruining. I kept praying for it to wind down, and it... never... did.

Not wanting to upset my friend, I lied about liking it as the credits rolled, though I did bolt for fresh air immediately thereager. By chance, I ran into another friend who, at that moment, was passing by outside the theatre. Before everyone else emerged, I took the chance to vent, though the moment the guy who'd invited me came out of the door, I changed the topic. Some pleasant small talk ensued, and the passing friend had to leave, but not before she gave me a hug and said, with puppy dog eyes, "I'll see you soon, and I'm sorry that Baraka blew chunks."

The evening did not improve.
posted by bicyclefish at 11:34 PM on March 16, 2007


xthlc: All documentaries are ethnographies. Stick that in your back pocket.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:56 AM on March 17, 2007


Stinkycheese (and anyone else): The scene with the chicks getting their beaks burned one by one, are you sure they're shaving their beaks off?? I could never figure out exactly what they were doing or why. Can anyone enlighten me?

Baraka is a very good philosophical film, and though I can see why people regard it as unsubtle in its message, that's usually because they are sticking to one obvious interpretation. Even the shots of human suffering (living off rubbish in india etc.) or environmental decay can be read in a more neutral 'this is life' perspective.

The main 'theme' of baraka is to me, more abstract. It's basically lots of examples of oneness against a vast background, which symbolises this whole message of man's relation to the eternal well. Typical example: one person looking at the environment, or one big rock, or one hole in a rock etc...

For Koyaanaqatsi we can equally discern an abstract theme of things getting forced through channels e.g. a mass of people going through a door. This to me is suggestive of evolution. Koyaanaqatsi is ostensibly about 'life out of balance' (rushing towards disaster?) which might fit this theme.

However, in both cases I'm not sure that these more abstract themes as interpretations of the more conceptual message are conscious as neither is completely consistent.
posted by leibniz at 3:33 AM on March 17, 2007


leibniz: I could be wrong of course, but I assumed they were shaving off the beaks so the poor creatures couldn't peck each other to death when they got squashed together in cages.
posted by stinkycheese at 5:07 AM on March 17, 2007


stinkycheese, I can't remember where I heard it, but supposedly they file the beaks down so the birds don't peck themselves out of boredom once confined to their tiny, individual cages.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2007


Thanks for posting this. One of my top 5.
posted by moonbird at 9:14 AM on March 17, 2007


As much as I like the dark pessimistic late 70's mood in the film, I find parts of the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack to be a little grating at times - Glass was going through a heavily electronic period then and it's shrillness occasionally distracts from the visuals (much like some later mainstream films - Scarface, anyone?).

His newer works for strings or orchestra feel more mature and accessible. I particularily like this Chronos Quartet disk.

For comparison purposes, we always have the Glass Engine.
posted by CynicalKnight at 9:53 AM on March 17, 2007


JaredSeth: Well, whether it was to prevent the chicks pecking themselves or each other, I guess it's safe to say they got their peckers shaved off. *rimshot*

The repetitiousness of the action, combined with the assembly line locale, and of course the undeniable cuteness of baby chicks, makes for a mondo disturbing bit anyways. I think there was also some funeral pyre footage in Baraka as well? I really ought to see this again, it's got to be over ten years since I watched it last.
posted by stinkycheese at 10:38 AM on March 17, 2007


Time lapse crumpet machine
posted by hortense at 11:50 AM on March 17, 2007


I downloaded part of the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack from a blog a while ago, as I'd remembered it fondly. Unfortunately, the section posted consisted almost entirely of squiggly synths and a chorus going "AAA!!! AAA!!! AAA!!! AAA!!!" over and over and over. Now, whenever my girlfriend encounters boring and/or repetitive music in my presence, she shrieks "AAA!!! AAA!!! AAA!!! AAA!!!" to signal her displeasure.

In other news, I haven't seen Baraka in years, but I enjoyed it at the time, although the first time I saw it I was so stoned I forgot it was a documentary and was confused when the plot failed to kick in.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:19 PM on March 17, 2007


Card Cheat: your girlfriend sounds all kinds of awesome.
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:42 PM on March 17, 2007 [1 favorite]


I actually didn't like Baraka very much; I believe it suffers from a typical early-90s preoccupation with "world culture" -- a kind of neo-orientalism that fetishizes Balinese kachak and African dancers as somehow more "authentic" or "real" than the thousands of miracles that surround us every day, even as privileged western urban-dwellers.

Seconded, xthic.
posted by suedehead at 1:29 AM on March 18, 2007


or rather, xthlc.
posted by suedehead at 1:30 AM on March 18, 2007


This is the only DVD i've ever worn out by playing it. This movie is also the reason I started shooting time-lapse. Some time back in the late 90's they brought it back to theaters and I saw a 70mm print of it in Seattle. Awesome!
posted by Occams Hammer at 9:37 AM on March 18, 2007


I saw Baraka sober. I really thought it was terribly boring. Everyone else was high and thought it was amazing. It could be that I'm a culturally lacking boor, but I think weed is necessary to make this movie watchable.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:10 AM on March 18, 2007


Damn, I love Baraka, but At War with Baraka was sorta teh suck. Boring, which is saying something since I watched Cache first. A film overdubbed with an album of the same subject does not a transcendence make. *waves diploma wildly*
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:39 PM on March 18, 2007


I'll take any of the Qatsis over Baraka. In fact I'll take an hour and a half of staring at the DVD case for Koyaanisqatsi over Baraka. (Apart from the bit with the monkeys in the pool, that was neat.)
posted by Hogshead at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2007


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