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Koyaanisqatsi a nonverbal film by Godfrey Reggio and Ron Fricke

by Darren Lambert

Koyaanisqatsi is a nonverbal film, directed by Godfrey Reggio, and completed in 1982. Koyaanisqatsi contains no actors, no dialogue and has no script. Images from around the world are set to a moving score from composer Philip Glass.

In the movie Koyaanisqatsi director Godfrey Reggio tries to show the imbalance between man and nature. Shots showing the destruction of mankind are coupled and set against images of nature’s beauty and force. The images are very moving and provoke many thoughts in viewers. The musical score of Philip Glass is unconventional, as his scores often are, and yet it is a good balance to the images.

The images are shot by Ron Fricke who later went on to make the movie Baraka. Baraka has a similar theme to Koyaanisqatsi, but a slightly more spiritual theme. It was shot using 70mm, which gives a warmer and cleaner feel than Koyaanisqatsi. Koyaanisqatsi was shot between 1975 and 1982. Some of its scenes are stock footage, such as explosions and space rocket launches.

Koyaanisqatsi has its own page at with all of the details of the film and images of most of the scenes.

In 2003 Koyaanisqatsi was re-released after ownership disputes where settled. The re-mastered DVD image greatly improved the quality but bizarrely lost its original aspect ratio.

Koyaanisqatsi has gone on to be an underground cult movie, and often studied by film students looking to explore a deeper side of the film world.

A small genre of films has been spawned by Koyaanisqatsi. Baraka, as mentioned above has become the most popular. Other movies in the genre include Chronos: also by Ron Fricke, Powaqqatsi: the sequel to Koyaanisqatsi, Microcosmos: about insects, Naqoyqatsi: the less popular final part of the Qatsi trilogy: Winged Migration: about birds, Samsara: the Sequel to Baraka, Dogora: about the young people of Cambodia.

All of these movies where originally created to by viewed in theatres, where one gets the maximum effect. Larger and clearer televisions, as well as home cinema systems have allowed all of these movies to be enjoyed at home.

Darren is a big fan of nonverbal films and runs the Spirit of Baraka website.

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