Baraka - Blu-ray

It's hard to describe Baraka to someone who hasn't seen the movie before because there's no plot to the movie, and no dialog. The title is a Sufi word that translates to "the thread that weaves life together," and Baraka is a movie that connects people, animals and locations together using some of the most amazing visuals you'll find in a movie. The filmmakers journeyed to 24 countries on 6 continents and shot footage using a custom-built, computer-controlled camera (this was back in 1991, amazing!). It's an amazing work of art, and something you'll want to watch over and over.

My love for this movie was instantaneous after I saw the first 10 minutes on the Short Cinema Journal 1 DVD. Though the picture was a letterboxed 4:3 image, the visuals grabbed me, and when I heard they were issuing a Special Edition in 2001 I imported my copy from the US (don't forget I'm a Canadian, eh?). The disc cost me a ton of money, but I didn't care because I had the best possible presentation of Baraka that existed. When the HD formats were first announced I started to dream of an HD baraka release. When it was first announced I was ecstatic at the thought of watching this in HD on my 60" TV, but my watching was delayed a few weeks after my TV died on me and had to be repaired.

The disc features a 1080p transfer, which is what nearly every other Blu-ray release features, but the process of getting that image is unique to the movie. Baraka was filmed using 70mm film (most movies are shot on 35mm), so they have lots of image data to work with. The film was scanned at 8k, which means a picture that's 8192 pixels wide, while the dimensions of a 1080p image are 1920x1080. They took that scan, touched up some scenes digitally, and then down-sampled it to create the 1080p image used on the disc, and the result is a nearly flawless, beautiful transfer. The audio is equally impressive, boasting both a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, and a DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track, both at 96k/24 bits.

The disc features a short 7 minute featurette about the restoration of the movie, going into great detail about how the movie was scanned and restored. Also on the disc is Baraka: A Closer Look, a documentary on the movie lasting 1 hour, 16 minutes. This is what I've been waiting years to see - a comprehensive look at the movie, and the people behind it. They have so many fascinating stories to tell about their journey around the world shooting the movie, and the various obstacles they were faced with. I've always wanted a subtitle track that lists the locations of each shot, or an interactive map that would show the scene for a location when it's clicked on, but that's not available here. However, an interactive map can be viewed on the website.

If I could only own one movie on Blu-ray, it would be Baraka. The movie is so beautiful and moving that I tear up every time I watch it, and watching the stunning Blu-ray transfer left me with my mouth hanging open during some scenes. If you own a Blu-ray player then I strongly urge you to add this to your collection. MPI has created a must-own title on their first-ever Blu-ray release.

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