The Classics: Baraka (1992)

Baraka

Score: 5/5 (Classic)

“Baraka” is a celebration of our home. There’s no narrative or voice-over. All that is shown are various moments of the Earth at any given moment in time. Music is taken from around the world, creating a sense of life in every frame. It is a film that should unite us as a species, and as inhabitants of this most peculiar speck of the great galaxy.

Too often, I need to be reminded how the differences that divide us are what make us united against those looking to destroy civilization. To me, civilization is the collective achievements and failures of the human race. “Baraka” appropriately celebrates these achievements. We were able to develop languages, religions, governments and communities. We cured diseases, fought for preservation of our histories, fought for equality, fought for what was right.

The film opens with images of how people around the globe worship. Orthodox Jews pray at the western wall. A Buddhist monk lights large masses of candles. Dervishes begin to perform their sacred dance which demonstrates how God showers his love upon the earth. A dreadlocked man reads from a book. In some part of Southeast Asia, a group of men chant rhythmically in front of a statue of Buddha. They didn’t rehearse that chanting, it was just a way they chose to worship.

We are shown the great cities of the world. A crosswalk in Tokyo shows the thousands of people who use it on a daily. A small village somewhere in south Asia just as everyone is waking up. Vast cityscapes take over the night sky while ancient ruins stand tall within the modern world. Mud huts in Africa. Remote villages in South America. These villagers do not look for our sympathy, they simply want to share their traditions and their cultures with us.

Individuals are given their moment. A young girl in the Amazon peeks behind the thicket with curiosity. An aboriginal man uses a comb to put on face paint. A Yakuza wades in a bath.

Dramatic shots of Earth’s natural wonders and coastlines. Great, red arches towering over the Utah lands. Trees towering over the rivers of the Amazon. Gallons of water falling over into great heaps of white and steam. Volcanoes erupting with angry force. Monoliths of mountains standing regally in the mist.

Yet “Baraka” also took a moment to acknowledge our failures. Sites of mass genocide silently glide across the screen from Poland to Cambodia. Thousands of faces fill wall after wall. Who were these people? What were their hopes and fears? What went through their minds as these events unfolded? People digging in the trash to support themselves. Children begging on the streets while the privileged pass by them without a single thought. A man cuts down a mighty tree as an old man looks on at what we have done to the land. Sweatshop after sweatshop producing cigarettes, shirts, computers.

Some of the final images of “Baraka” are the ruins of the great civilizations of the past. Egypt, Khmer, Aztec, China. These empires that held sway over millions believed that they would last forever – and in a sense they did. Yet from these lands, nature took back and we arose. I am reminded of Shelley.

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