A Reason to Film

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While I await upon Amazon to ship little data storage devices to my home so that I can strip my hard-drive down to carry all my footage from Monroe to duPont, I’ll write about why I am doing what I am doing.

Baraka is a documentary of sorts.  How about you start with this scene to get a sense of what the movie is about:

There is no dialogue.  No plot.  The film, simply, is a lens into the complex, diverse landscapes (both natural and cultural) of the world.  These landscapes are set against structured scenes such that contextualize what is being seen throughout the film.  Such as a brief scene of tattoos on a Japanese man’s back:

or through this long scene of various places of human life that is framed in the at the very end (starting at 5:58) by this scene of the Dance of Death.

The film, simply, is unbelievable.  I am challenged to understand just how this film was done.  There are 152 locations across 23 countries used in this film.  Here are some questions:

Who chose the locations?  How did they know what they wanted to film?  How did they safely move a crew, camera, equipment, and footage from each country?  How did they coordinate the ethics of the filming?  Who gave consent to be filmed?  Who didn’t?  How did they negotiate with far off tribes to gain such a private look?  How was this all put together?  Was there a complete vision from the start or did it just unfold?

I have more I could question, but what I drew most from the movie is a crucial point.  Rarely does someone go off into the world and focus in on what is around them with intent.  All you really have to do is go and look.  I imagine that a big component of this film was an active openness to looking around to the crew, and filming as much as possible.

Furthermore, the use of music throughout the film is brilliantly done, setting the tone of every scene whether it be fast paced or slow paced.  The music keeps you in but also at times lets you drift on along soft melodies and the innumerable landscapes.  And no one is explicitly telling you what to think or how to feel.  Yes, the film does attempt to push the audience in a direction but much is left for the viewer to figure out.

This was the inspiration for myself.  I wanted to take a camera on my trip to Cambodia and peer outside into the world.  I already had fair amount of experience from the Documenting Social Movements in the Spring of 2011 with Professor Rao.  Using a camera and editing footage isn’t impossible.  It just takes effort.

I wanted to give a look at Cambodia in a Baraka sort of feel, even though I knew I’d fall quite short.  Baraka is so composed.  The camera pans effortlessly.  Nothing is overdone or unnecessary.  And, amongst all these places, the audience doesn’t feel intrusive.  The film is structure as if we are a ghost floating throughout the world, unnoticed and pulled along in a Scrooge sort of fashion.  I can’t do this, but I wanted to see what would happen.

There are many shortcomings I will discuss and ethical issues, but this was my inspiration, Baraka, and I went with it.


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