out of Five
Running time: 96
Breathtaking and serenely beautiful to watch, Baraka is still the visual delight it was twenty years ago, thanks to phenomenal photography, superb editing and a strapping score.
What’s it all about?
Written and directed by Ron Fricke, Baraka takes us on a journey far and wide to present the unseen wonders of our planet from the depths of volcanoes to New York City’s Grand Central Station. Originally produced in 1992, the documentary’s re-release marks its twentieth anniversary and follows the recent release of Fricke’s Samsara, which expanded on the same themes and hit screens for the first time this summer.
Even twenty years after its original release, Baraka is still utterly captivating and incredibly beautiful to watch. For 96 minutes, Fricke transports us to the hidden corners of the world, taking us on an eye-opening, cultural journey that somehow manages to never for one minute look dated. The editing by Fricke, David E. Aubrey and Mark Magidson is still superbly effective, presenting stark contrasts between the many faces of our world (shots of Far Eastern sweatshops are juxtaposed with the Western world’s mass consumption of those exact products) to add emphasis on the day-to-day things we take for granted and how diverse our planet actually is.
There is some upsetting footage of children begging and some won’t feel comfortable watching the harsh treatment of chicks in poultry farms, but together with their neighbouring scenes, these shots serve as an honest reflection of the world’s cruellest aspects at a particular point in time.
The score is quite frankly beautiful, moving in time with the many different visuals, but keeping cohesive during its many transitions. The cinematography is also simply stunning and quite how Fricke and his team managed to access and communicate these areas of the world remains an astonishing achievement to this day. The only problem is that (like its follow-up Samsara), whilst its lack of subtitles and voiceover are a blessing, Baraka doesn’t offer the finer details into where these places actually are and the background behind the people we’re looking at, which is a bit of a disappointment for viewers wanting to know more.
An absorbing and exhilarating ride through the world’s hidden corners, this documentary is a sumptuous and fascinating watch. Even if you’ve seen Baraka before, you simply must watch again.