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Samsara U

Lois Patiño, Spain, 2023, 114m.

Spanish director Lois Patiño, who cut his teeth in experimental cinema, uses techniques from that world to astonishing effect with Samsara, bringing audiences a transcendental experience made for the big screen. Having played in the Encounters section of 2023’s Berlinale, Samsara beckons viewers to traverse time and space, across the universe and beyond in a film which Sight and Sound has described as ‘genuinely transformational.’

The story unfolds in two parts, across two continents, two communities, two cultures, and two sets of inner lives. One half is set in Laos among the monks of a Bhuddist temple, where a young man called Amid tends to a dying woman. He travels across the Mekong River to read to her from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, preparing her for the journey to the other side. The other half unfurls in Tanzania where a young girl named Juwairiya wakes up to the news that a baby goat has been born. She names it Neema, the Arabic word for blessing. Local women farm seaweed and make soap and the men catch fish. ‘Life is change,’ Juwairiya's grandmother explains to her; there is regeneration in the air. Between these two stories lies a sensory pathway made of light and sound; the viewer is only asked to close their eyes to join the experience.

Content warning: This film contains flickering or flashing lights that may affect those with photosensitive epilepsy.

The Garden Cinema View:

A unique filmgoing experience which emerges from Tibetan Buddhism and provides an opportunity for reflection and possibly even your actual rebirth. The diptych structure, textured imagery (captured on highly tactile 16mm Kodak film stock), lush sound design, and long takes of travel, daily tasks, and conversation are all reminiscent of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, albeit with the latent Buddhist content of Apichatpong’s work brought to the surface. Mileage for the central passage through the bardo will vary from viewer to viewer, and will depend upon many individual factors. Transcendental or otherwise, such purely meditative space might seem a natural extension of the kind of attentive drift intrinsically embedded in slow cinema itself.

Amid Keomany, Toumor Xiong, Simone Milavanh, Mariam Vuaa, Mtego Juwairiya Idrisa Uwesu

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