Director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson have been a filmmaking team with the films Chronos, a documentary short in 1985 and the feature documentary, Baraka (1992). Both are acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry, with Baraka winning the FIPRESCI Prize at the Montreal World Film Festival that year. The duo have combined their concept and treatment skills to write, produce and direct the feature documentary, Samara (a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life”), and it is a film the viewer will have a hard time turning away from once the film is rolling. With no dialogue, they tell a beautiful story with images, going from beauty to devastation, captured from their travels in twenty-five countries as they filmed over a period of almost five years. Do not dismiss the film.
I wholeheartedly endorse viewing this film and sharing it with others. There may be a challenge in doing so, as many people are so accustomed to having dialogue in films, it may seem quite foreign to them. Some may have curiosity, yet still avoid it, but the images do so much more than having someone tell you what is going on in the world. Film fans embraced silent movies decades before and more recently, with the black and white film, The Artist, which was an international sensation. Go see the film.
This is art. Samsara was photographed entirely in 70mm film utilizing both standard frame rates and with a motion control time-lapse camera designed specifically for this project. The images were then transferred through the highest resolution scanning process available to the new 4K digital projection format. The filmmaker’s creativity with use of the varied digital and film can be a showcase for what can be done and may have many talking about Samsara for the art that it is. The film has original music composed by Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard, and Marcello De Francisci, as well as several contributed compositions. I would love to get my hands on the soundtrack as it adds so much to this film.
Samsara transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.
The film is rated PG-13 for some of the images and is 102 minutes long. It is an unexpected sensory experience that stays in your mind. As well it should, in my opinion.
In Austin, the film opens at the Alamo Drafthouse South Lamar and Violet Crown Cinema on September 14th.
By Liz Lopez