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Review of "Baraka" Blu-ray version

The 70mm Newsletter
Written by: Thomas Hauerslev, editor, in70mm.com Date: 06.12.2008
As a projectionist I have been fortunate to premiere "Baraka" in 70mm during one of the very first commercial engagements. That took place during two June weeks in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1993. I even had the pleasure to say hello to Producer Mark Magidson at that time.

Nobody knew anything about the film, but still, 6060 guests turned up to see the film. Not a lot, considering the Imperial Bio have 1104 seats and large curved 70mm screen. In 2000 "Baraka" returned and by that time it sold out.

Since 1993 I have seen it between 5 and 10 times, probably more - and only in 70mm. I continue to see it, because of the sheer excitement of seeing REALLY SHARP IMAGES in the cinema, slow editing, the portraits, beautiful places, the cinematography, the music and the sound. The impact of large format is very intense for me, so "Baraka" allows me to relax, be inspired and wonder ever time I see it. I'm certain many people have different reasons to see it again and again, as "Baraka" is always a crowd pleaser when it is shown in cinemas all over the world.

Over the years "Baraka" has become a contemporary 70mm classic like "Lawrence of Arabia" and "The Sound of Music".
More in 70mm reading:

"Baraka" Fully restored for Blu-ray
"Baraka" cast and credits
"Samsara" - in Panavision Super 70 / System 65
"Baraka" The High Rez HD Digital lntermediate Restoration: HR/HD DI

Publicity & Marketing
MPI Media Group
Dark Sky Films / Dokument Films
16101 S. 108th Ave.
Orland Park, IL 60467

P: +1 708 873 3128
F: +1 708 873 3177

What is the new Blu-ray disc like?

I'm biased because I have seen it so many times in 70mm, but I must say, this disc looks very, very good on the small home "theatre" screen. If only all films looked like this (even in the cinema), there would be no reason to go out any more, except if you want the social dimension of sitting with hundreds of others, the (awful) smell of popcorn and sharing something unique.

It's "70mm for the Home Screen" - a high-impact experience.

"Baraka" has finally been released in a state-of-the-art home-video version, that does justice to the 70mm cinema version. It isn't 70mm of course. But it is certainly the equivalent of "70mm" compared to regular DVDs and home entertainment. The 8k high resolution scanning process has revealed plenty of detail never before seen in the home.

"Baraka" was filmed in Todd-AO 70mm [actually in 65mm] and have so much resolution, which will never appear in our home, because even the largest home screens (up to 103) are still dwarfed by a full blown 60ft/20m curved 70mm screen. In "Baraka"'s case it is really a draw back to watch it on a small home screen - if you see it for the first time. The big screen is essential to be drawn into the film. On the other hand, it's the ultimate "Baraka" souvenir and serves as appetizer to go and see for the first time (or again) in 70mm.

I saw the disc on a flat screen. Sitting close to a curved screen is key to get a "you are in the movies" experience. As soon as I can get it together I will try to project this Blu-ray disc on one my curved test screen to see what it looks like. I promise to follow up on that issue.

Michael Stearn's music has been digitally restored for this release, as the movie elements had deteriorated over the years. Apparently, he went back to original recording masters and re-record the soundtrack. It does sound very good. A lot of top, middle and bottom - the clarity when played in DTS is overwhelming. During the next days I will go back and listen to the Dolby tracks, which I'm sure will be equally as overpowering.

The 6-track movie sound is incredible. I nearly fell off my chair when a thunder storm, including lightning, surprised me (again) in the film. The dynamics was scary and very powerful, to say the least. The low-end in some sequence made our windows rattle! A real test for your sound system too. I use large JBL 4-way speakers with 14" woofers and lots of amplifier power - and I wasn't disappointed.

Two very interesting companions are part of the special features. "A Closer Look" chronicles the genesis and history of "Baraka" since it's release 15 years ago. All fresh interviews and historic footage of the filming. The second featurette is called "Restoration" and tells the story about the negative scanning and the people involved. Very interesting material, and well produced.

"Baraka" on Blu-ray is shipped in an eco-friendly cardboard packaging, which seems a little fragile to me, compared with plastic packaging. I can live with that, however, and MPI is to be congratulated to consider cardboard's friendlier impact on our environment. While we wait for Ron Fricke's next non-verbal 70mm film, titled "Samsara" I recommend seeing "Baraka" on Blu-ray from MPI. It's Blu-ray as good as it is, and serves as standard for how home-video should look like. Well done!
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Updated 21-01-24