Baraka (1993)

Posted: June 16, 2009 in Joe Giambrone
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Blu-ray: Baraka

DVD: Baraka (2-Disc Special Edition)

Baraka (“blessing”) is a glorious accomplishment of a film. This is a cinematographer’s film, and that’s where it was recommended to me, hanging out on Cinematography forums. The source material was shot on 65mm, and the filmmakers traveled the world “three times” making this non-verbal film. It’s an art film, and not a drama in the normal sense of the word. It’s one of those special films that makes you consider going out and getting a Blu-ray player for the high definition experience.

It seemed to me that the point was to somehow show a representation of every type of thing in the world, in one movie. Various categories are grouped together with loose concept overlap. For example, there is a spirituality section, where many different religions are touched upon and their practitioners and rituals given screen time.

It all sounds a bit mundane in words, but the film is spectacular despite its lack of a classic storyline.

In the filmmaker’s drive to show everything, and to represent all sorts of experience, they do include some harsh realities, made beautiful by the camera.

A collection of poor people (“slum dogs”) scavenge a garbage dump as new trash is deposited around the children.

Homeless adults sleep as city pedestrians pass by.

A presumably homeless child sits alone on the concrete.

The brothel girls of east Asia stand waiting for a customer.

These powerful images sear into the brain. The message of open communication and connectedness is transmitted. We see these people, and they seem to see us as they gaze into the camera. People are captured in their natural environments as little moving photographs of a time and place.

As we experience a slice of their lives, they are humanized, brought to the audience as-is, not glossed over and without a synthetic master narrative. We are all equals, it seems to say, sharing time on this magnificent planet.

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