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

Powaqqatsi (or Powaqqatsi: Life in Transformation) is a 1988 American documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio and the sequel to Reggio's experimental 1982 film, Koyaanisqatsi. It is the second film in the Qatsi trilogy.

Powaqqatsi 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.[3] 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.


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.


Rotten Tomatoes reported that 63% out of 8 reviews were positive with the average score of 6.8 out of 10[4] 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."[5] 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."[6]

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."[7] 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."[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "POWAQQATSI (U)". British Board of Film Classification. March 1, 1988. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  2. ^ "Powaqqatsi (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved April 19, 2015.
  3. ^ Powaqqatsi - Philip Glass
  4. ^ "Powaqqatsi (1988) - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 26, 2013.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (April 29, 1988). "Review/Film; 'Powaqqatsi,' Cataloguing Existences". New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  6. ^ "POWAQQATSI". Roger Ebert.com. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  7. ^ "Powaqqatsi". Time Out. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  8. ^ "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.
  9. ^ Dead Man Walking Trailer Music (1995)

External links[edit]