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by Gabrielle Lipton
August 20, 2012 12:43 PM
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'Samsara' Director and Producer On Globetrotting Across 25 Countries to Shoot Their Follow-Up to 'Baraka' on Gorgeous 70mm


"Samsara" Oscilloscope Laboratories
70 mm film is hardly ever used anymore, but you still prefer it over filming in digital?

Magidson: Well, we sort of had the best of both worlds. Mark, you can better explain this…

Fricke: Yeah, the concern with digital was like digital everything – your iPhone, whatever. It’s just going to be obsolete in 12 months. And when you’re off going to 25 countries, you don’t want your material to be outdated in short order. Film holds up forever, and 70 is such a beautiful, classic widescreen, sort of the "Lawrence of Arabia" aspect ratio format. But then instead of outputting it to film as we did with "Baraka," we took it into a digital environment and scanned into a massive file of imagery at super high res, which allowed us to refine the imagery in a way we can’t in film. So it’s the best of old technology and new technology.

Fricke: We could take the birds out or the cars or wires that were just kind of knocking the shots off a little bit.

So you do all of the editing yourselves?

Magidson: We edit it. We’re the editors. That’s where the film is made.

Fricke: It’s real personal.

Magidson: We [edited it] with no sound or music. We had this zen approach and wanted to keep the film in the middle, in the flow.

"We tried to steer it so it didn’t get to be too preachy or narrative. We’re not shooting documentaries." -- Ron Fricke
Yes, there were times when it felt like the film was beginning to comment on something, but then it would immediately segue into a different group of images. There really was no agenda or point you’re trying to make?

Fricke: We tried to steer it so it didn’t get to be too preachy or narrative. We’re not shooting documentaries. There’s no point here other than that there’s so many pathways for people to be reborn or do work on themselves. It’s just up to you to find them.

Magidson: We’re just trying to reveal something that you feel, something about the connection to the phenomenon of life that we all share. You want everyone to feel that they’re a part of that.

Either physically or socially, there’s remoteness about each of your images, something that we don’t confront every day, if ever. How do you find these people and places?

Fricke: YouTube. YouTube was our best friend.

Magidson: We don’t drag everybody and the equipment anywhere without a really strong target list of main visual objectives that have been worked out in advance. But there are those moments you find that you didn’t know about, and that’s a big part of it, too.

Fricke: There’s a portrait we did of this gang member who was full body tattooed, done with an ink pen when he was in jail. We were at his apartment in L.A. thinking we were going to do another one of these portraits where they stare into the lens. But then his wife brought out this little baby, and he just turned into tattoo daddy. He was just gaga – it was incredible. So we set up as fast as we could and he just kept going with that baby, and we didn’t have to say anything. It was one of those happy accidents.
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1 Comment

  • Doug Block | August 20, 2012 4:51 PMReply

    Saw Samsara at Full Frame - a thrilling and utterly astonishing film experience. Not many films these days you can say HAVE to be seen on the big screen but this is one, and it's not to be missed.