My history with this type of film begins with a theatrical screening during college of Koyaanisqatsi (1982). I've seen similar films, like Baraka and other travelogue films from the early days of cinema. It dawned on me that cinema was meant to show people places they would otherwise never see. That was part of the appeal of James Bond and other international pictures like Around the World in 80 Days, bouncing all around the globe. Ron Fricke does it with a more cultural gaze. Films like this that love to smash cut cultures still living like it's the dawn of man with the soullessness of modern cities. Fricke goes for harmony instead of a clash, finding both ends - and therefore everything in between - to be beautiful in its own way.
What makes this different is the presentation of certain behavior as performance art. The scene of the worker covering his face with mud before adding violent accents was shocking because it's a performance in a doc that's about capturing moments, but it focused this film in a new way. It opened the door for images of sex dolls waiting to be boxed and shipped, a machine that quickly collects dozens of free range chickens, the sad truth of very different cultures united by an unexplainable love of weaponry.
On Letterboxd someone asks:
"Am I supposed to feel a part of the world, or more isolated?" A tough question here. Usually I feel separate from less-developed cultures. I admire their art, clothes, dance and other culture but I would never consider giving up my internet and iPhone for it. Samsara doesn't advocate that, but instead shows how I'm as strange a creature to people living in a monastery in India as they are to me, yet we are all connected. I know because the Van Nuys Costco shown in the film, that's my