Beyond Koyaanisqatsi: A New Film from Godfrey Reggio


Friday, January 31, 2014

Godfrey Reggio’s films “are like a cat that barks. They’re unusual, the names of the films are off the wall,” he tells Kurt Andersen. Most people know Reggio for the 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, a word from the Hopi language meaning “life out of balance,” and its two sequels. Koyaanisqatsi has no dialogue and no actors, no action or story in the traditional sense. It is composed of striking images — desert canyons, traffic zooming at night, a nuclear test — with a pulsing score by a composer who was not yet a household name, Philip Glass.

Reggio’s new film Visitors is in black-and-white, with mesmerizingly long, slow takes devoid of action. There is a long procession of faces (including a gorilla) watching you, as you’re watching them. “You are the subject of this film,” Reggio says. Unlike Koyaanisqatsi, Kurt notes, Visitors does not seem to give a clear thematic takeaway. “If you are going to look for meaning in this film you will miss what the whole film is about,” Reggio replies. “Like a traveler, just go on a journey and let your eyes be open to the sights that are coming to you.”

Reggio’s own life would make a compelling movie. He grew up in New Orleans. (“It’s a crazy, crazy place. I was burning it on all ends,” he says — not even in his teens.) By age 14, he had left home to became a monk with the Christian Brothers. “I ran away to the Middle Ages — little did I know,” he says. “It made the Marine Corps look like the Boy Scouts.” Reggio remained with the Brothers for 14 years, ultimately working with street gangs in northern New Mexico. It was there that he was inspired to become a filmmaker when a friend showed him Los Olvidados, Luis Bunuel’s movie about street kids in Mexico City. “When I saw that film it was like a spiritual experience.”

Thirty years after Koyaanisqatsi, Reggio feels we are no closer to a life in balance. “We are on a treadmill,” he says, “we’re all pursuing our technological happiness without realizing that the price we pay for that is the plummeting of our humanity and the planet we live on.” But even with such a dire outlook, Reggio wants to make beautiful films. “Art is to provoke, it gives us access to a truth. I wanted to show the beauty of the beast and not the obviousness of injustice.”


Video: Visitors (trailer)

    Music Playlist
  1. Koyaanisqatsi
    Artist: Phillip Glass
    Album: Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack
    Label: Nonesuch
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. The Reciprocal Gaze
    Artist: Phillip Glass
    Album: Visitors soundtrack
    Purchase: Amazon


Godfrey Reggio

Produced by:

Julia Lowrie Henderson and David Krasnow

Comments [5]

Sam Eisenstein from Pasadena, CA

From almost the first notes of EINSTEIN I knew I was listening to a composer who could hear and reproduce the sounds of an immense cosmos unknowable to most of us. Glass has continued to lead us toward the ineffable, mostly unapproachable ecstatic center of things. With Reggio, his visual counterpart, we are enormously blessed.

Feb. 08 2014 03:42 PM
Julia from Studio 360

elizabeth burger from maryland & EB from PA from PA,

Visitors is out in limited release right now.

As of 1/31 Visitors is showing in:
New York, NY (Sunshine)
Toronto, ON (TIFF/Bell Lightbox)
Montreal, QC (Phi Centre & Cinema Excentris)
Santa Fe, NM (The Screen)
Quebec City, QC (Cinema Le Clap)

On 2/7 it opens in:
Seattle, WA (Cinerama)
London, ON (Hyland Cinema)

On 2/11 it opens in:
Pleasantville, NY (Jacob Burns Film Center)

Stay tuned to the Screenings page at and the Facebook page for the film for additional screening dates and cities.

Hope you get the chance to see it!

Feb. 02 2014 04:33 PM
Brad Hoffman from Dublin, Nh

While there have been moments that prompted me into action, it was Bill Murray's film, The Razor's Edge, that prompted my 19 year old self to contemplate my soul. It is a film that many critics panned, but which had a lasting impact on me.

Feb. 02 2014 12:01 PM
EB from PA from PA has some dates on there for what looks like a very limited release, on the web site they call it screenings, so I don't think it will be distributed widely. But I could be wrong... Their web site was hard to view on an iPad. A simple list of screening dates would be more helpful.

Feb. 01 2014 04:58 PM
elizabeth burger from maryland

Where can I find the list of theaters to see Vistors/

Feb. 01 2014 07:01 AM

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