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Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of balance is a documentary film directed by Godfrey Reggio which consists mostly of slow-motion and time-lapse footage, starting with a cave painting, progressing to footage of various natural environmental phenomena such as waves and cloud formations, and then to footage of man-made events including traffic formations, bombings, and desolate urban landscapes. The film invites comparison between various natural and technological phenomena, for instance following a slow-motion shot of crashing waves with one of clouds billowing around a mountainside, or an aerial shot of a cityscape with one of a computer chip.

The documentary has no dialogue but does feature the Hopi Indian word koyaanisqatsi chanted over a score by Philip Glass, as well as a few different Hopi prophecies[?] in their native language; interpretation is left to the viewer, although the meanings of the word (including "crazy life," "life in turmoil," "life disintegrating," "life out of balance," and "a way of life which calls for another way of living") seem to offer clues. The Hopi prophecies are translated at the film's end; these are generally dour forecasts of boiling oceans, burnt land, cobwebs in the sky--for instance, one is "If we dig precious things from the land, we will invite disaster."

The film was made over the course of about six years, three of them spent in shooting and three of them with Reggio and Glass working together on the music: Glass turning in a composition, Reggio recutting the footage to fit it better, Glass recomposing what he'd submitted, etc.

Koyaanisqatsi, out of print for over a decade, was rereleased on DVD in late 2002. Much of the reason for the film's disappearance from the market centered around a complicated rights dispute. Reggio's Institute for Regional Education claimed original copyright on the film, but Francis Ford Coppola's was also contending for the film's rights, as it had been funded through his American Zoetrope[?] studio. The film had originally been distributed through Island Entertainment[?] / Palm Pictures[?], which had subsequently been sold to PolyGram[?] -- and after the dissolution of PolyGram Pictures, the entire PolyGram film library had been sold to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer[?]. The IRE released an independently-financed DVD production of the film to raise money for the film's future preservation, but the current mass-market version has been released through MGM.

Koyaanisqatsi is followed by the sequels Powaqqatsi and Naqoyqatsi and the shorts Anima Mundi[?] and Evidence. After a lengthy delay caused by funding problems, Reggio has completed Naqoyqatsi, the third installment of his Qatsi series, which premiered in the United States on October 18th, 2002. (http://www.naqoy.com/ )

In 2000 the United States Library of Congress deemed Koyaanisqatsi "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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