Prepare yourself for an unparalleled sensory experience. SAMSARA reunites director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose award-winning films BARAKA and CHRONOS were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry.
SAMSARA is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, 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.
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 man’s spirituality and the human experience. Neither a traditional documentary nor a travelogue, SAMSARA takes the form of a nonverbal, guided meditation. 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 filmmakers approach non verbal filmmaking with an understanding that it must live up to the standard of great still photography, revealing the essence of a subject, not just its physical presence. 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. This camera system allows perspective shifts to reveal extraordinary views of ordinary scenes. The images were then transferred through the highest resolution scanning process available to the new 4K digital projection format that allows for mesmerizing images of unprecedented clarity. SAMSARA will be a showpiece for the new, high-resolution 4K digital projection, the HD format, as well as standard digital and film projection.
SAMSARA was filmed in 25 countries and produced over the course of almost 5 years. The crew, comprised of Ron Fricke (director), Mark Magidson (producer), JC Earle (associate producer), and Myles Connolly (line producer) traveled together to each location throughout the course of filming.
The team brought a core set of equipment, shown above ready for travel at Indira Ghandi airport in Delhi, to each location. This core set of gear included: a Panavision 65mm camera, a custom built motion controlled time-lapse camera, a small jib arm, and 30 feet of dolly track split into 5 foot sections to meet airline regulations. They also carried a carefully designed support package of essential equipment. Local fixers on site provided assistance with everything else, such as transportation, permits, regional knowledge, and occasionally additional necessary gear.
To get the film from 70mm to stunningly detailed 4k resolution for theaters, each frame of the negative was scanned at 8k resolution on FotoKem’s famous BigFoot scanner (shown below). The resulting digital data file was in excess of 20 terabytes! This large file was then compressed into 4k to create the final DCP. The filmmakers extensively tested this method to confirm the benefits of oversampling in the scanning of film to digital. The result is an unparalleled viewing experience with extraordinary levels of detail, clarity, and vibrance.
This method of scanning in film at 8k resolution was originally pioneered in the creation of BARAKA’s acclaimed Blu-ray DVD, and has since become a widely adopted industry practice. The achievement of the BARAKA Blu-ray marked the first time 70mm analog quality was successfully introduced into a digital format.
Samsara’s 102 minutes of nonverbal film is carried by original music composed by Michael Stearns, Lisa Gerrard, and Marcello De Francisci, as well as several contributed compositions. Mark Magidson, Ron Fricke, and Michael Stearns, who is renowned for his groundbreaking score for Baraka, reunited again with with well loved musician, singer, and composer Lisa Gerrard. Gerrard previously contributed the track Host of Seraphim to Baraka, and worked with Mark Magidson on the Dead Can Dance tour film Toward the Within.