- For the Islamic concept of beneficent force from God, see Barakah. For other uses, see Baraka (disambiguation).
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ron Fricke|
|Produced by||Mark Magidson|
|Written by||Constantine Nicholas
|Music by||Michael Stearns, Dead Can Dance|
|Running time||96 minutes|
Baraka is a 1992 non-narrative documentary 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 Berakhah.
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 film in over twenty years to be photographed in the 70mm Todd-AO format, and the first film ever to be restored and scanned at 8K resolution.
Baraka is a documentary film with no narrative or voice-over. It explores themes via a kaleidoscopic compilation of natural events, life, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period.
The film is Ron Fricke’s follow-up to Godfrey Reggio’s similar non-verbal documentary film Koyaanisqatsi. Fricke was cinematographer and collaborator on Reggio’s film, and for Baraka he struck out on his own to polish and expand the photographic techniques used on Koyaanisqatsi. Shot in 70mm, it includes a mixture of photographic styles including slow motion and time-lapse. To execute the film’s time-lapse sequences, Fricke had a special camera built that combined time-lapse photography with perfectly controlled movements.
Locations featured include the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, the Ryoan-Ji temple in Kyoto, Lake Natron in Tanzania, burning oil fields in Kuwait, the smouldering precipice of an active volcano, a busy subway terminal, tribal celebrations of the Masai in Kenya, and chanting monks in the Dip Tse Chok Ling monastery.
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. It suggests a universal cultural perspective: a shot of an elaborate tattoo on a bathing Japanese yakuza precedes a view of tribal paint.
At the start of the film, there is a shot of a baboon thoughtfully blinking in a hot spring. The shot changes to that of a dark sky lit by stars, and the camera pans over the sky, while it gradually changes from dark to light. The implication is that this very human-like baboon is beginning to wonder about the galaxy, forcing viewers to question their own place in the universe in time. A multitude of juxtapositions are used through the film, the first of which is shown by contrasting homeless people in the midst of busy city life, with the affluent. Images are shown of a homeless child, a homeless mother with children, and homeless orphans among rags and dirty streets. Then the camera changes to a shot of an entire family of a smiling father, mother, and baby on a motorcycle, with palm trees rushing past in the background. This contrast feelingly explores the injustice of social class discrimination. Another discreet but clever example of juxtaposition is a shot of a soldier, fully uniformed and armed with a gun, standing beside the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. The soldier symbolizes war and all the connotations that come with it, while the Western Wall symbolizes religious holiness and tranquility. The two opposites create a powerful statement of the current conflict in the Middle East and the contrast between the Promised and simultaneously threatened Land. The shots are symbolically cut to further reveal contrast. An airplane flies above an old village (symbolizing the advancement in technology), while the village itself is composed of rusting walls with peeling paint, and the villagers all working hard in factories, wearing tattered clothing. Subsequently, the shot changes to a more technological-advanced picture filled with lots of people exiting the subway, dressed in formal attire. The contrast between the two cities further shows the striking difference and injustice of peoples’ various standards of living across the globe. Perhaps the most powerful juxtaposition in the entire film is the portrayal of a monk making his way across a street. The Zen monk is performing a ritual that forces him to take only one slow step at a time, with a deep concentration and intensity of purpose. The monk is fully in the moment, while swarming crowds rush around, going about their day-to-day lives, barely noticing where they are, and consequently, losing the moment forever. The monk embraces every second of his walk, while others reduce entire days, weeks, months, and years into a dull, monotonous lifetime. The meaning and intensity of life are so different from each other.
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. In the first half of the movie, director Ron Fricke chose tranquil music, paired with beautiful sounds of nature, such as water, wind, and birds, to establish an atmosphere of peace and serenity. Most frequently, the director uses the pure, calming sound of the bamboo flute. In other parts of the film, the audio is created by voices singing or chanting religious songs to set a mood of spiritual harmony. However, as the movie progresses, the soundtrack becomes much more frantic, with either fast-tempo melodies (such as the sound of jet engines) or very sad, slow pieces. The soundtrack is relevant to the images being revealed on the screen, and therefore hints at the second half of the movie depicting scenes of a much darker note than the first half. Baraka’s music is used intelligently in creating a dual vision. The most evident juxtaposition can be found by comparing the first half of the movie, which shows the beautiful, harmonious side of life, with the second half containing scenes of both human and animal labor, scenes depicting war, death, apparent in faces of terror, with images of skulls lying in piles, and the haunting, empty rooms of abandoned concentration camps.
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 released internationally in August 2012. Also shot in 70mm, Samsara explores an arguably darker, updated version of many of the same themes as Baraka.
Throughout the entire film, the camera travels in “real time”, moving extremely slowly, almost as though it is a person actually experiencing time at the slow speed it passes in, in reality. Even in Fricke’s famous shots of traffic or Grand Central Station in time-lapse, the action is whizzing through the shot, but the camera still remains slow to pan over the rush or is completely still, simply observing the action. Through this consistency of creating a “human-eye” camera, the film comes to life, and viewers are able to relate easily to its content. Moreover, the camera is not only given its human quality by slowly panning or observing time-lapse at a still position, but also by following a person or group of people at a faster pace, to capture their movement and to tell their story. A religious procession was done in slow-motion to capture the rhythm of the spirituality of the ritual. This range of different speeds is used to symbolize the different speeds of time with which we experience our own lives. Some days we are merely the camera walking in a park, taking in every moment, while at other times we feel so lost in the chaos, that the moment becomes surreal, making us feel as dizzy as the effect of watching traffic in time-lapse. In moving across the globe, into different time zones, camera technique remind us that time is a subjective reality. Fricke suggests that the meaning of Baraka is not only timeless, but also universal. Everyone can relate to the film, because it shows life through a range of different angles. Ultimately, by taking us out of our time-centred world, Fricke shapes the film to develop it from our time to all time.
The movie was filmed at 152 locations in 23 countries. Some locations include: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Cambodia, China, Ecuador, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Japan, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Nepal, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, United States and Vatican City.
- Egypt: Cairo; City of the Dead; Giza pyramid complex; Karnak Temple, Luxor; Ramesseum
- Kenya: Lake Magadi; Mara Kichwan Tembo Manyatta; Mara Rianta Manyatta; Masaai Mara
- Tanzania: Lake Natron
- Arizona: American Express, Phoenix; Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle; Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson; Peabody coal mine, Black Mesa; Phoenix
- California: Big Sur; Los Angeles; Santa Cruz (Chicken Farm Scenes) 
- Colorado: Mesa Verde National Park
- Hawaii: Haleakala National Park, Maui; Kona; Puʻu ʻŌʻō, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- New York: Empire State Building, Manhattan, New York City; Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan, New York City; Helmsley Building, Manhattan, New York City; McGraw-Hill Building, Manhattan, New York City; World Trade Center, Manhattan, New York City; Green Haven Correctional Facility, Beekman, New York; Stormville, New York
- Utah: Arches National Park, Moab; Canyonlands National Park, Moab
- Others: Shiprock, New Mexico; White House, Washington, D.C.; South Lake, California
- Argentina: Iguazu Falls, Misiones
- Brazil: Carajás Animal Reserve, Pará; Iguazu Falls, Paraná; Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro; Caiapó Village, Pará; Porto Velho, Rondônia; Represa Samuel, Rondônia; Rio Preto, Minas Gerais; Favela da Rocinha, São Paulo City, São Paulo
- Ecuador: Barrio Mapasingue, Guayaquil; Cementerio Ciudad Blanca; Galapagos Islands; Guayaquil
- Cambodia: Angkor Thom; Angkor Wat; Angkor; Bayon; Phnom Penh; Preah Khan; Siem Reap; Ta Proum; Tonle Omm Gate; Tuol Sleng Museum; Sonsam Kosal Killing Fields
- China: Beijing; Great Hall of the People; Tiananmen Square; Guilin; Kowloon Walled City, Kowloon, Hong Kong; Li River, Qin Shi Huang; Xi'an
- India: Calcutta, West Bengal; Chennai, Tamil Nadu; Ganges River; Ghats; Kailashnath Temple; National Museum of India, New Delhi; Vandharajan Temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Indonesia: Borobudur; Java; Candi Nandi; Candi Prambanan; Gudang Garam Cigarette Factory; Kediri; Kasunanan Palace, Surakarta; Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta; Kediri, Tabanan; Bali; Mancan Padi; Mount Bromo Valley; Tampak Siring; Tegallalang; Gunung Kawi Temple; Uluwatu
- Iran: Imam Mosque; Imam Reza shrine, Mashhad; Isfahan; Persepolis; Shah Chiragh; Shiraz
- Japan: Green Plaza Capsule Hotel; Hokke-Ji Temple; JVE Yokosuka Factory; Kyoto; Meiji Shrine; Nagano Springs; Nara; Nittaku; Ryōan-ji Temple; Sangho-ji Temple; Shinjuku Station; Tokyo; The Hachikō Exit, Shibuya Station; Tomoe Shizung & Hakutobo; Yamanouchi-Machi; Zoujou-Ji Temple
- Israel: Church of the Holy Sepulchre; Western Wall
- Kuwait: Ahmadi; Burgan Field; Jahra Road, Mitla Ridge (Farouk Abdul-Aziz researched and produced this segment)
- Nepal: Bhaktapur; Boudhanath Stupa; Durbar Square, Kathmandu; Hanuman Ghat; Himalayas; Mount Everest; Mount Thamserku; Pasupati; Swayambhu
- Saudi Arabia: Mecca
- Thailand: Ayutthaya Province; Bang Pa-ln; Bangkok; NMB Factory; Patpong; Soi Cowboy; Wat Arun; Wat Suthat
- Poland: Oświęcim (Auschwitz); Bytom
- France: Notre-Dame de Chartres; Notre-Dame de Reims
- Vatican City: St. Peter's Basilica
- Turkey: Hagia Sophia, Istanbul; Galata Mevlevi Temple (Both on the European side of the Bosphorus)
- Wehr, Hans (1994). Arabic-English Dictionary. Urban, IL: Spoken Language Services. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-87950-003-0.
- Andrew Oran (2008). Baraka: "Restoration" feature documentary (DVD/Blu-ray). Magidson Films, Inc.
- Ebert, Roger (2008-10-16). "Great Movies: Baraka (1992)". Chicago Sun-Times / rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on 17 December 2008. Retrieved 2008-11-15.
- A complete list and interactive map of locations is available on the official Baraka web site
- "Chicken Factory Farm at the official site for Baraka and Samsara".