The makers of last year’s Festival hit Leviathan served as producers on this astounding sensorial stunner that takes us on a state-of-the-art cable car up and down one of the vast, awe-inspiring Trisuli valleys in Nepal, where the world-famous Manakamana Temple attracts pilgrims and tourists from around the world.
Stephanie Spray, Pacho Velez
Last year's enthralling Festival hit Leviathan shone a well-deserved spotlight on the work of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Laboratory, which continues to expand the definitions of ethnographic, documentary and avant-garde cinema with the sensorial stunner MANAKAMANA, co-directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez. Like Leviathan, MANAKAMANA is a ride (literally!), but a decidedly smoother and calmer one. Impressively shot on Super 16mm, the film takes us via a state-of-theart cable car up and down one of the vast valleys of Trisuli in the Gorkha district of Nepal, where the famous Manakamana Temple attracts pilgrims and tourists from the world over.
In a series of fixed-camera shots, MANAKAMANA offers eleven intimate portraits of assorted cable-car commuters — whose charmingly awkward and poignant encounters further enliven the breathtaking airborne journey. Though the film's concept is appealingly simple, the effect is evocatively rich — both in the awesome grandeur of nature as seen through the car windows, and in the contradictions of contemporary Nepalese life propelled by modernization. A palpable sense of melancholia emerges as ancient traditions and cultural memory teeter on the verge of vanishing.
With its gliding, to-and-fro rhythms,
exquisite sound design, and the close proximity
of a shared ride, the film creates both
a powerful, present-tense intimacy and a
strange sense of the mythic. MANAKAMANA
boldly extends the ambitions of transcendental
cinema by focusing on the melding
of the sacred and the profane in everyday
life. From the fixity of one's seat and an
impressively elevated vantage point, even
the vertigo-stricken can sit back and enjoy
one of the world's most spectacular views.