• James Rutherford

'Baraka': An Extraordinary Wordless Documentary Showcasing Nature and Humanity Around the Globe


Movie poster for the documentary Baraka from filmmaker Godfrey Reggio

“Baraka” (1992) is a dynamic, wordless documentary that showcases scenes and images of life, activity and religion from around the world, shot in stunningly intimate fashion by veteran director-cinematographer Ron Fricke (“Koyaanisqatsi”, “Samsara”). Borrowing the Sufi word for "breath of life" as its title, it’s a unique and thrilling encapsulation of existence and global enterprise.


Delivered without narration, the film opens with scenes of morning-time activity: luscious landscapes, mother nature coming to life, humans at prayer, signs of nascency and consciousness. Yet the storyline takes a dramatic turn, shifting perspective to moments of utter destruction: heavy industry encroaching upon the environment and exploiting the Earth for precious materials. The effects of global capitalism are brought front-and-center, including scenes of industrialization, poverty, war and death. And then the cycle begins anew: a sacred river, pilgrims bathing, the solemn toll of prayer bells—restoration and the ebbing tide of existence reawakened.


Advancing on his work with Godfrey Reggio on the comparable “Koyaanisqatsi” (1982), Fricke traveled to 152 locations in 23 different countries in order to deliver “Baraka” to audiences—and his efforts amount to something altogether extraordinary. With a major lift from composer Michael Stearns’ captivating musical score, it’s an exhilarating and profoundly eye-opening creation—an absolutely breathtaking modern masterpiece.

 

View the trailer:

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