ⓘ Samsara (2011 film)

                                     

ⓘ Samsara (2011 film)

Samsara is a 2011 American non-narrative documentary film of international imagery directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson, who also collaborated on Baraka, a film of a similar vein, and Chronos.

Completed over a period of five years in 25 different countries around the world, it was shot in 70 mm format and output to digital format. The film premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and received a limited release in August 2012.

                                     

1. Synopsis

The official website describes the film, "Expanding on the themes they developed in Baraka 1992 and Chronos 1985, Samsara explores the wonders of our world from the mundane to the miraculous, looking into the unfathomable reaches of humanitys spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, Samsara takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation."

                                     

2. Production

Samsara is directed by Ron Fricke and produced by Mark Magidson. The pair had collaborated on Baraka 1992 and reunited in 2006 to plan Samsara. They researched locations that would fit the conceptual imagery of samsāra, to them "meaning birth, death and rebirth or impermanence". They gathered research from peoples works and photo books as well as the Internet and YouTube, resources not available at the time of planning Baraka. They considered using digital cameras but decided to film in 70 mm instead, considering its quality superior. Fricke and Magidson began filming Samsara the following year. Filming lasted for more than four years and took place in 25 countries across five continents. Three years into filming, the pair began assembling the film and editing it. They pursued several pick-up shoots to augment the final product.

The crew used three 70 mm cameras for filming; two cameras manufactured by Panavision and one specialty time-lapse camera designed by Fricke. While the scenes were captured on 65 mm negative film, they were output to Digital Cinema Package DCP, a digital output. Magidson described the process, "Were doing a combination of what we think is the best of both technologies, the best way to image capture and then the best way to output. Once we get into the digital environment, were able to refine the imagery, were able to save shots that wed have to otherwise trash really for various reasons." Where they cut their negatives for Baraka, the negatives for Samsara were scanned then worked on digitally. The pair used the Telecine process to format the film to ProRes for the editing process and used Final Cut for editing.

The crew filmed from a birds-eye view a scene of pilgrims surrounding the Kaaba in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. A 40-floor building was recently constructed next to the mosque that surrounded the Kaaba, so the filmmakers were able to film the pilgrims with permission of the buildings owner.

                                     

2.1. Production Music

The films music was composed by Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard, and Marcello De Francisci. Stearns collaborated with the filmmakers on Baraka and Chronos, and Gerrard also collaborated with them on Baraka. Unlike Baraka, Samsara was edited without music, and the composers worked on numerous sequences as separate pieces. The filmmakers then connected the sequences. Magidson explained of the pieces, "Its a piece of music you can listen to as music as well that interprets their feelings to know that imagery in that sequence visually, so theyre kind of interpreting it musically." The scoring process lasted between six and seven months.

                                     

3. Themes

Fricke and Magidson emphasized avoiding a particular political view in assembling the film. Fricke said, "We just try to keep it in the middle and then we form little blocks of content and then we set them aside until we had enough. We did all of this without music or sound effects. We just let the image guide the flow and then we started stringing the blocks together." Nicolas Rapold of The New York Times wrote that Samsaras lack of a specific message is "a departure from similarly expansive, globally conscious nonfiction films in vogue now, like the critically acclaimed work of Michael Glawogger Workingmans Death, which depicts the same sulfur mines as Samsara and Nikolaus Geyrhalter Abendland that also serve as probing sociological critique."

                                     

4. Release

Samsara premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011. In March 2012, Oscilloscope Laboratories acquired the rights to distribute Samsara in the United States. The film had a limited release in two theaters on August 24, 2012. By its fifth weekend September 14–16, Samsara had expanded to 60 theaters and achieved the highest-grossing documentary release of 2012. On October 14, distributor Oscilloscope Laboratories announced that at $1.8 million in box office earnings, Samsara had become the highest-grossing film in Oscilloscopes relatively short history.

                                     

5. Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 77% based on reviews from 77 critics and reports a rating average of 7 out of 10. It reports the critics consensus that "its a tad heavy-handed in its message, but Samsaras overwhelmingly beautiful visuals more than compensate for any narrative flaws." At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film received an average score of 65% based on 23 reviews, reflecting "generally favorable reviews."

Kenneth Turan, reviewing for the Los Angeles Times, called Samsara "as frustrating as it is beautiful." Turan expressed frustration that the filmmakers did not name the more obscure locations, such as the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center in the Philippines. The critic also took issue with some of the films "disconcerting" images. Turan concluded, "Some of the connections made are too obvious, like following images of ammunition with a portrait of a severely wounded veteran, while others are completely elusive. Shots of the devastation Katrina left behind in New Orleans are beautifully spooky, but does it say anything useful to follow that with images of Versailles? The makers of Samsara want to free our minds, but their technique makes us their prisoners more often than not."

In the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert awarded Samsara a full four stars, writing that it provided "an uplifting experience" through its use "of powerful images, most magnificent, some shocking, all photographed with great care in the highest possible HD resolution." Ebert extolled the films capturing of images of what may eventually be lost to humanity and noted that there were also images that could reflect the reason for these losses. Katie Walsh, writing for indieWires The Playlist, applauded Samsara s "technical achievements" and noted that the film used the "intellectual montage" technique. Walsh said the film was similar to Man with a Movie Camera, but took "the idea to new global and spiritual heights." She said of the films entirety, "While one can discuss the technical prowess of these shocking and beautiful images, it doesnt do justice to the spiritual cinematic power of this work."



                                     

6. Filming locations

Samsara was filmed in nearly one hundred locations across 25 countries over the course of five years. Some locations include: Angola, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mali, Myanmar, Namibia, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and United States.

                                     

6.1. Filming locations Africa

Angola

  • Epupa Falls

Egypt

  • Great pyramids of Giza
  • Egyptian Museum, Cairo
  • City of the Dead, Cairo

Ethiopia

  • Mursi village, Omo Valley

Ghana

  • Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop, "Sodom ang Gomorrah", Osu Accra

Mali

  • Dogon Village, Bandiagara Escarpment
  • Great Mosque of Djenne
  • Cliff Dwellings near Terelli

Namibia

  • Himba village, Kunene
  • Skeleton Coast
  • Luderitz – Kolmanskop
  • Sossusvlei – Namib-Naukluft National Park
                                     

6.2. Filming locations Asia

China

  • Tagou Martial Arts School, Zhengzhou
  • Beijing 1000 Hands Dance
  • Shanghai
  • Zhangzhou City, Fujian Province
  • Changchun City, Jilin Province

Hong Kong

  • Lan Kwai Fong Hotel

India

  • Thikse Monastery, Leh, Ladakh

Indonesia

  • Kawah Ijen Sulfur Mine, East Java
  • Tri Pusaka Sakti Art Foundation

Palestinian territories

  • Church of the Redeemer, East Jerusalem
  • Bethlehem
  • Dome of the Rock, East Jerusalem
  • Western Wall, East Jerusalem
  • Nablus Checkpoint, Nablus

Japan

  • Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
  • Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto
  • Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International ATR, Tokyo
  • YK Tsuchiya Shokai Doll Factory, Tokyo
  • Orient Kogyo Showroom, Tokyo
  • Atri, Kyoto
  • Osaka University
  • Lotte Kasai driving range, Chiba
  • Toshimaen/Hydropolis, Tokyo

Jordan

  • Petra

Myanmar

  • Mount Popa, Popa Taungkalat Monastery
  • Bagan, Mandalay
  • Mingun temple

Philippines

  • Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center CPDRC Dancing Inmates, Cebu City
  • Payatas Trash Dump, Quezon City
  • Arms Corporation of the Philippines
  • Manila Streets

Saudi Arabia

  • Al-Masjid al-Haram, Mecca

South Korea

  • Demilitarized zone, Panmunjom
  • Hyundai Glovis, Co. Ltd Shipyards, Seoul

Thailand

  • Cascade Go-Go Bar, Nana Plaza, Bangkok
  • Siriraj Medical Museum, Bangkok

Turkey

  • Mount Nemrut National Park, Adıyaman
  • Sultan Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul
  • Cappadocia

United Arab Emirates

  • Dubai Mall
  • Ski Dubai
  • Palm Island Development
  • Burj Khalifa
  • Burj Al Arab Hotel


                                     

6.3. Filming locations Europe

Denmark

  • Silkeborg Museum
  • Bogely Svineproduktion
  • Mariesminde Poultry Farm
  • Moesgård Museum

France

  • Cathedral Notre Dame de Reims
  • La Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
  • Paris Metro
  • Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris, Paris
  • Aiguille du Midi
  • Olivier de Sagazan, Paris
  • Mont Blanc
  • Mont-Saint-Michel
  • Chateau de Versailles

Italy

  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
  • Mont Blanc
  • St. Peters Basilica, Vatican City
  • Teatro alla Scala, Milan
  • Catacombe dei Cappuccini, Palermo
                                     

6.4. Filming locations The Americas

Brazil

  • Paraisopolis favela, São Paulo
  • Divino Salvador Church, São Paulo
  • Se Metro Station, São Paulo

United States

  • Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia
  • Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah
  • Hunts Mesa, Monument Valley, Arizona
  • El Capitan, Yosemite National Park, California
  • Antelope Canyon, Arizona
  • Mono Lake, Mono Basin, California
  • Kīlauea volcano, Hawaii
  • Ninth Ward, New Orleans, Louisiana
                                     
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  • Samsāra is a Sanskrit word that means wandering or world with the connotation of cyclic, circuitous change. It is also the concept of rebirth and
  • Samsāra Sanskrit, Pali also samsara in Buddhism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered
  • imagined. A sequel to Baraka, Samsara made by the same filmmakers, premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival and released internationally
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  • planet Mustafar The sequel to Baraka, Samsara premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2011 and had its U.S. premiere on August
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  • as Surround Mix Engineer on the Grammy Award Winning recording Winds of Samsara in the category Grammy Award for Best New Age Album of 57th Annual Grammy