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Theatrical release poster
Directed byGodfrey Reggio
Written by
  • Godfrey Reggio
  • Ken Richards
Produced by
  • Graham Berry
  • Leonidas Zourdoumis
Edited by
Music byPhilip Glass
Distributed byThe Cannon Group
Release date
  • April 29, 1988 (1988-04-29)
Running time
99 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$4.2 million[2]
Box office$589,244[3]

Powaqqatsi[a] is a 1988 American non-narrative film directed by Godfrey Reggio and the sequel to Reggio's experimental 1982 film, Koyaanisqatsi. It is the second film in The Qatsi Trilogy, which was followed by Naqoyqatsi (2002).

The film's title is a Hopi neologism coined by Reggio meaning "parasitic way of life" or "life in transition". While Koyaanisqatsi focused on modern life in industrial countries, Powaqqatsi, which similarly has no dialogue, focuses more on the conflict in Third World countries between traditional ways of life and the new ways of life introduced with industrialization.[5] As with Koyaanisqatsi and the third and final part of the 'Qatsi' trilogy, Naqoyqatsi, the film is strongly related to its soundtrack, written by Philip Glass.


Screenshot from the end of the film

In the beginning chapter, Serra Pelada, men from Serra Pelada (a gold mine in Brazil) are seen carrying bags of dirt up to a destination. In the middle of the chapter, various shots outside of Serra Pelada are shown. Near the end of the chapter, a few men are carrying another man who was struck by a falling rock (mentioned in the "Impact of Progress" feature on the DVD/Blu-ray) uphill along a procession of workers who are carrying dirt-filled sacks. After that, several discordant layered exposures of the dirt carriers are shown. The scene cross fades to show the image of a head, with multiple exposures of the same head rapidly rotating and layered upon to give a manifold appearance. This is an apparent allusion to Janus, the god of beginnings, endings and transitions, keeping with the film's central themes of progress and change.

In Anthem: Part 1, the sun rises up above an African village. Later, a man raises a sail for a boat. The next chapter, That Place, starts zooming out from a waterfall. Children can be heard laughing. Villages are shown as well as children and upside down water reflections. Anthem: Part 2 has various shots of villages and islands shown.

Mosque and Temple shows various natural shots as well as religious scenes. Some of these scenes are a transparent inside a church with someone walking by, a man praying, a monk sitting while a bird flies off his stick, the same monk walking by the river, a bird flying by a sunset, more children, crows flying above a river, two men rowing their boat in that river, a woman praying in the Ganges river, two men practicing yoga, another monk, and a temple in Nepal.

Anthem: Part 3 shows masses of people in motion, working together and celebrating traditional rituals, in Africa and South America, all in slow-motion.

Video Dream blends together colorful television advertisements and news programs from the US,[6] Western Europe, the Soviet Union and Japan.

New Cities In Ancient Lands has views of people on the move, and traffic in three parts: China, Africa and India.

The Unutterable/Caught! People in large groups in the developing world, moving together, at work; views of traffic from above.

Mr. Suso / From Egypt Sometimes-unfocused people in motion, to the muezzin's call, ghostly double-images of traffic, close-ups of faces, reflections in water.


A soundtrack was produced in 1988 that was composed by Philip Glass.

Powaqqatsi: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1988)
1."Serra Pelada"5:00
2."The Title"0:25
3."Anthem: Part 1"6:22
4."That Place"4:41
5."Anthem: Part 2"3:49
6."Mosque and Temple"4:42
7."Anthem: Part 3"8:11
8."Train to São Paulo"3:04
9."Video Dream"2:14
10."New Cities In Ancient Lands: China"2:47
11."New Cities In Ancient Lands: Africa"2:56
12."New Cities In Ancient Lands: India"4:42
13."The Unutterable"7:02
15."Mr. Suso #1"1:08
16."From Egypt"2:23
17."Mr. Suso #2 with Reflection"1:18
Total length:73:38


Rotten Tomatoes reported that 56% out of 9 reviews were positive with the average score of 6.5 out of 10[7] and said it "wasn't as eagerly embraced by viewers and critics as its popular predecessor."

The New York Times said "There are two kinds of dirt to be found in Powaqqatsi: good dirt and bad. ... [the director] magnifies this distinction until it achieves mountainous proportions, yet still he manages to see it in starkly one-dimensional terms."[8] Roger Ebert said "There are images of astonishing beauty in Godfrey Reggio's "Powaqqatsi," sequences when we marvel at the sights of the Earth, and yet when the film is over there is the feeling that we are still waiting for it to begin. ... Reggio seemed to think that man himself is some kind of virus infecting the planet - that we would enjoy Earth more, in other words, if we weren't here." On Siskel and Ebert at the Movies with he and Gene Siskel each agreed to give the film a thumbs down, he also called it a "New Age music video".[9][10]

Time Out said that it is "visually stunning, but undermined by a fairly serious flaw. ... At best the message is a fairly obvious criticism of First World domination of the Third, and at worst a hippy celebration of the Dignity of Labour."[11] Greg Klymkiw said "... the trilogy, [of which Powaqqatsi is the second part] while a stoner experience of the first order, can be equally appreciated by those who remain straight. Much of it is mind-blowingly mind-fucking without mind-altering substances."[12]

Influence and legacy[edit]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Pronounced /pˈwɑːkˌkɑːtsi/ poh-WAHK-kaht-SEE; Hopi: [poˈwaqˌqat͡si][4]


  1. ^ "POWAQQATSI (U)". British Board of Film Classification. March 1, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  2. ^ "Powaqqatsi (1998)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved March 7, 2024.
  3. ^ "Powaqqatsi (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  4. ^ Hopi Dictionary Project (1998). "Spelling and pronunciation". Hopi Dictionary/Hopìikwa Lavàytutuveni. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. pp. 863–864. ISBN 0-8165-1789-4. Retrieved March 10, 2024 – via Internet Archive.
  5. ^ Powaqqatsi - Philip Glass
  6. ^ Harvard Film Archive
  7. ^ "Powaqqatsi (1988) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 21, 2023.
  8. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 29, 1988). "Review/Film; 'Powaqqatsi,' Cataloguing Existences". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  9. ^ "POWAQQATSI". Roger Ebert.com. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  10. ^ Willow, Jack’s Back, Assault of The Killer Bimbos, Powaqqatsi, Da, 1988 - Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews
  11. ^ "Powaqqatsi". Time Out. September 10, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  12. ^ "THE QATSI TRILOGY (KOYAANISQATSI, POWAQQATSI, NAQOYQATSI) - BLU-RAY REVIEW By Greg Klymkiw". THE FILM CORNER with Greg Klykiw. January 10, 2013. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  13. ^ Soundtrack.net
  14. ^ The Criterion Collection

External links[edit]