Question: I saw a movie on TV between five and 10 years ago. I believe it had a one-word title that began with a "Z," and it had no dialogue but was set to music. It was about the way human beings have affected the Earth, and begins with a scene of countryside being chewed up by bulldozers. At different points, the film's speed is sped up and slowed down. I'm guessing there's a Russian connection... Can you tell me the title? Drew
Flickchick: It's the 1983 art-documentary Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi word meaning "life out of balance"), American filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's poetic lament for the damage mankind has done to the Earth, set to music by Philip Glass. Reggio spent seven years making Koyaanisqatsi and followed it five years later with Powwaqatsi; he has a third film on the same subject, Naqoyqatsi, due out in 2002. In addition, Reggio made a 30-minute film called Anima Mundi in 1991; it was commissioned for the World Wildlife Foundation's Biological Diversity Campaign.
Born in New Orleans in 1940, Reggio entered a Roman Catholic pontifical order called the Christian Brothers at age 14. In 1963, he moved to New Mexico, where he taught and worked with street gangs. Reggio took his final vows at age 25, and left the Christian Brothers three years later, when he was 28. He has said he was inspired to become a filmmaker by Luis Buñuel
's searing Los Olvidados
, about street children in Mexico City. Now, the bad news. Neither Koyaanisqatsi
is available on video or DVD; the official Koyaanisqatsi
website explains, "The license rights...[are] in dispute due to several contested contractual matters. Discussions have taken place on and off for several years. The producers are making every effort to find a middle ground so that Koyaanisqatsi
can be put back in circulation." Anima Mundi
, which was available on DVD through the WWF, is no longer available.