My recent posts at World-Architects


Friday, January 25, 2008


In a post at Blog Like You Give a Damn on Kowloon Walled City -- one of the most amazing self-generating entities I've witnessed via photographs and video -- commenter fred shares a reference to Baraka, a 1992 film by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson with scenes of the walled city.

[Kowloon Walled City | image source]

The generous stills on this web site include a few images of the physical conglomeration that made up the walled city, illustrating its proximity to the now-demolished-just-like-the-walled-city Kai Tak Airport.

[Kowloon Walled City | image source]

Kowloon Walled City was demolished in 1993 for a number of reasons, so only images such as these are what survive for those, like me, fascinated by the place but never to visit it.

[Kowloon Walled City | image source]

Glancing at some of the other stills on the film's web site, Baraka clearly resembles another non-narrative film devoted to presenting imagery of the world's populations and their respective environments: Koyaanisqatsi.

[Brazil slums | image source]

The first film of Godfrey Reggio's Qatsi trilogy, released ten years before Baraka, looks at "the collision of two different worlds -- urban life and technology versus the environment," according to the filmmakers. Baraka, likewise, "show some of the best, and worse, parts of nature and human life."

[Sao Paulo, Brazil | image source]

Having seen the earlier film and not (yet) the latter, it sounds like the big difference between the two films that share much in common, including the use of time-lapse photography and a minimalist soundtrack, is their outlook: the former pessimistic but the latter a bit more positive.

[Varanasi, India | image source]

One way this assumption can be deduced is the derivative of each title...

[Bhaktapur, Nepal | image source]

Koyaanisqatsi: Hopi Indian term meaning "life out of balance."

[Auschwitz, Poland | image source]

Baraka: Sufi words meaning blessing, essence of life.

[Ta Prohm Temple, Cambodia | image source]

Regardless of Baraka's relatively positive tone, images of the "bad" accompany those of the "good," like a corridor of a concentration camp in Aushwitz shot the same as a ruined temple in Angkor, Cambodia.

[Mecca | image source]

All images above from Baraka.


  1. I own both of these movies and they are terrific. Sometimes they are good to play on mute during parties as a kind of video art.

    Also, Koyaanisqatsi is part of a trilogy that includes Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi.

  2. I hear ya about playing them mute, though I really like Glass's score. I've actually played the soundtrack to the first Qatsi film alongside Stan Brakhage's silent shorts; that worked surprisingly well.


Comments are moderated for spam.