Godfrey Reggio is best known for the first installment of his avant-garde “Qatsi” trilogy, Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance. The 1982 film was a Philip Glass-scored non-linear experiment in slow motion and timelapse footage, depicting urban and natural scenes throughout the US. Koyaanisqatsi contains no dialogue at all, and its follow-ups, Powaqqatsi: Life in transformation (1988) and Naqoyqatsi: Life as war (2002), contain very little—all three films are named for words in Hopi, as Reggio believed “language is in a state of vast humiliation,” saying, “It no longer describes the world in which we live.”
Before all of this however, Reggio was a community activist working on issues of health care and gang violence in New Mexico, eventually forming a sort of media activist non-profit, the Institute for Regional Education. The IRE was commissioned by the The New Mexico Civil Liberties Union to create a public service announcement warning of the growing surveillance culture, resulting in the trippy, insidious short you see below. In addition to cinematographer Ron Fricke‘s trademark visual style, the PSA parallels Reggio’s later work pretty clearly in terms of theme. There is a palpable fear of an unfeeling, authoritarian modernity, a historical period of technology and industrialization, rather than humanity.
While the campaign ran on billboards, radio and in print ads, it was the television commercial that really caught on—viewers actually called stations to see when the ad would air again. Despite the success of the campaign, the ACLU stopped funding the IRE, and after an unsuccessful Washington fundraiser, Fricke suggested the remaining money be used to fund a full-length film—Koyaanisqatsi.
Via Network Awesome