Baraka (1992)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Ron Frickle’s documentary takes us across the world and puts the spotlight on unique, enthralling, and curious images of people, landscapes, animals, lifestyles, and the synergy among them. One of its most notable features is the lack of narration. It utilizes music to establish a mood and inspires us think for ourselves what we think is being communicated.

Its images are already so alive during the opening shots, we could almost hear and feel the icy mountains breathe. It is a litmus test of the effort and talent from behind the camera when the device itself is relatively still and yet the details it captures can be described in a thousand words. Although I admired the crevices, slopes, and sheer majesty of the scenery, I could not help but turn inwards. I wondered if people have hiked through the labyrinthine heights and if they ever made it out alive or in one piece. I thought about the ancient people that used to live there and whether there was a possibility that there are people living there that modern society do not know about.

The sequencing of the images draw a handful of fascinating parallels. Most memorable is the way chicks are handled in a factory, by machines and workers, and the intercutting of images of crowds in metropolitan areas. The editing is quick and to the point without losing track of flow that maintains a mood. Time-lapse and real-time techniques are expertly controlled to overwhelm and slow down which forms a steady rhythm of urgency and rumination. Similar attributes can be observed in the shots between a certain type of housing in developing countries and cemeteries.

I have a keen eye when a camera focuses on faces. In a lot of movies, when a close-up is employed, the most common qualities filmmakers wish to highlight is emotion, beauty, and intention. Instead, here the director underlines the essence of a people’s culture and, in a way, reevaluates the concept of beauty. Although faces are front and center, we are given a chance to appreciate the art of what is drawn or painted over them. What are the different colors supposed to symbolize? Why do the children have slightly different patterns compared to the adults? What is being celebrated: a communion, a wedding, a prayer?

Many people might say that “Baraka” belongs to be shown in museums. On the contrary, I think it deserves to be shown in classrooms across the world because it showcases the idea that life and beauty is all around, that there are infinite things to look forward to and experience. “Where is this part of the world?” is the question that often sprouted in my head during the first twenty minutes. Eventually, it ceased to matter because my eyes and brain have begun to waltz. I felt a tinge of sadness, too. By seeing so much, I was reminded of the many things I will never get to see in my lifetime. And then I started to feel glad that the film is rich enough for repeated viewings so we can always discover something new.

Categories: Film

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