We’ve set up shop in a conference room above Third Avenue in Manhattan, a Canon 5D trained on Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson. I find myself apologizing awkwardly for the setup, several times. There’s a long boardroom table in the middle and a customary junket breakfast spread to the right. It’s about as plain as meeting rooms come, save for a few movie posters lining the walls, advertising films distributed by the indie film company that owns the space. Hardly ideal for our purposes, but here were are, all clumped into a single corner, with the director and producer of Samsara flanking a cardboard poster for their movie, leaned atop a stand. It’s not the welcome befitting the creators of a big, beautiful sweeping cinematic masterpiece. But they’re tired — too tired to care about such things, perhaps. They dismiss such apologies, clip their lavaliere microphones on over their shirts and sit down.
Fricke motions to the single SLR seated atop a tripod, explaining that he used the same model on a recent commercial shoot. “We have a solid background grounded in shooting in film, and that just stays with you,” he adds. “When I’m shooting like with a 5D, like what you’re using now to shoot this interview, I’m working with it like it’s a 65 camera. It’s my frame of reference, my background. I’m just wired that way.” The world of filmmaking has changed dramatically in the two decades since the duo first unleashed Baraka on the world, a non-narrative journey across 25 countries that became the high-water mark for the genre and a staple in critics’ lists and film school syllabi.