Baraka is a film with no narrative, complemented by the hybrid world-music of Michael Stearns. A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion, it explores themes via a kaleidoscopic compilation of natural events, human activities and technological phenomena shot in 24 countries on six continents over a 14-month period. Baraka brings together a series of stunningly photographed scenes to capture what director Ron Fricke calls “a guided mediation on humanity.” Cameras show the world, with an emphasis not on “where,” but on “what’s there.” Named after a Sufi word that translates roughly as “breath of life” or “blessing,” Baraka is a tour-de-force in 70mm that unites religious ritual, the phenomena of nature, and man’s own destructive powers into a web of moving images. “The goal of the ﬁlm,” says producer Mark Magidson, “was to reach past language, nationality, religion and politics and speak to the inner viewer.”
Fricke’s camera ranges, in meditative slow motion or bewildering time-lapse, over the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, the Ryoan-Ji temple in Kyoto, Lake Natron in Tanzania, burning oil fields in Kuwait, the smoldering precipice of an active volcano, a busy subway terminal, tribal celebrations of the Masai in Kenya, chanting monks in the Dip Tse Chok Ling monastery…and on and on, through locales across the globe. To execute the film’s time-lapse sequences, Fricke had a special camera built that combined time-lapse photography with perfectly controlled movements of the camera. In one evening sequence a desert sky turns black, and the stars roll by, as the camera moves slowly forward under the trees. The feeling is like that of viewing the universe through a powerful telescope: that we are indeed on a tiny orb hurtling through a star-filled void.
Running time: 1 hour 36 minutes.