Baraka is a 1992 non-narrative film directed by Ron Fricke. The title Baraka means blessing in a multitude of languages, deriving from the Arabic بركة , descending from a common Semitic ancestor and cognate to the Hebrew Baruch. The film is often compared to Koyaanisqatsi, the first of the Qatsi films by Godfrey Reggio for which Fricke was cinematographer. Baraka was the first in over twenty years to be photographed in the 70mm Todd-AO format.
Baraka has no plot, no storyline, no actors, no dialogue nor any voice-over. Instead, the film uses themes to present new steps and evoke emotion through pure cinema. Baraka is a kaleidoscopic, global compilation of both natural events and by fate, life and activities of humanity on Earth. Baraka's subject matter has some similarities to Koyaanisqatsi—including footage of various landscapes, churches, ruins, religious ceremonies, and cities thrumming with life, filmed using time-lapse photography in order to capture the great pulse of humanity as it flocks and swarms in daily activity. The film features a number of long tracking shots through various settings, including Auschwitz and Tuol Sleng: over photos of the people involved, past skulls stacked in a room, to a spread of bones. Like Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka compares natural and technological phenomena. It also seeks a universal cultural perspective: a shot of an elaborate tattoo on a bathing Japanese yakuza precedes a view of tribal paint.
Twenty chapters of this film spread over three main sections A1-A3:
A1: Chap. 01-07: Nature untouched by man – indigenous peoples, their rituals as part of nature being integrated. Chap. 01 – Snow and Ice Chap. 02 – Temples Chap. 03 – Light and Shadow Chap. 04 – The volcano Chap. 05 – Galápagos Islands Chap. 06 – Iguazu Falls Chap. 07 – Africa
A2: Chap. 08-15: Burglary of technology in nature – Uprooted human interaction with nature and with his kind – War and concentration camps. Chap. 08 – Cigarettes Chap. 09 – Public Bathing Chap. 10 – Traffic Chaos Chap. 11 – Mass Production Chap. 12 – Madness Chap. 13 – Aircraft boneyard Chap. 14 – Shadows of the Past Chap. 15 – Terracotta Army
A3: Chap. 16-20: Old, still living cultures – The architectural remains of past civilizations – Transience and lasting of all human efforts. Chap. 16 – Living on the river Ganges Chap. 17 – Sea of Clouds Chap. 18 – The Kaaba Chap. 19 – Starry sky Chap. 20 – Closing credits
The score by Michael Stearns and featuring music by Dead Can Dance, L. Subramaniam, Ciro Hurtado, Inkuyo, Brother and David Hykes, is noticeably different from the minimalist one provided by Philip Glass for Koyaanisqatsi. The film was produced by Mark Magidson, who also produced and directed the film Toward the Within, a live concert performance by Dead Can Dance.
Following previous DVD releases, in 2007 the original 65 mm negative was re-scanned at 8K (a horizontal resolution of 8192 pixels) with equipment designed specifically for Baraka at FotoKem Laboratories. The automated 8K film scanner, operating continuously, took more than three weeks to finish scanning more than 150,000 frames (taking approximately 12–13 seconds to scan each frame), producing over 30 terabytes of image data in total. After a 16-month digital intermediate process, including a 96 kHz/24 bit audio remaster by Stearns for the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack of the film, the result was re-released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc in October, 2008. Project supervisor Andrew Oran says this remastered Baraka is "arguably the highest quality DVD that's ever been made". Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert describes the Blu-ray release as "the finest video disc I have ever viewed or ever imagined."
A sequel to Baraka, Samsara, made by the same filmmakers, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011 and will be released internationally in later summer of 2012. Also shot in 70mm, "Samsara" explores an arguably darker, updated version of many of the same themes as Baraka.
Baraka has a 83% of Rotten Tomatoes out of 18 reviews. Roger Ebert included the film in his Great Movies list.
Baraka - Full Documentary