|MANAKAMANA (director/editor: Stephanie Spray/Pacho Velez; cinematographer: Pacho Velez; Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Lucien Castaing-Taylor/ Véréna Paravel; Cinema Guild; 2013-Nepal/USA-in Nepali & English-English subtitles when necessary)|
|"For the curious viewer."
by Dennis Schwartz
experimental 'head' documentary, produced by
the lab directors, Lucien
Castaing-Taylor, and Verena Paravel, of
Ethnography Laboratory. It was
uniquely shot solely in the confines of a 5-by-5-foot cable
car, built in 1998, in central Nepal, that
shows 11 nine-minute rides to the legendary
hilltop Manakamana temple (mana means heart
and kamana means wish)--with seven rides going
uphill (3,500 feet or 2 miles) and 4 downhill.
The cable car carried mostly locals such as
pilgrims (men wearing dhaki topi hats),
couples, a father and son, musicians (3 chatty
long-haired hipster young rockers with their
pet cat and two elderly men who played their
traditional string Nepali instruments on the
way down), tourists (even
one American woman),
and 5 goats (probably slated to be used in the
temple's sacrificial rites).
The temple is the
site of the Hindu goddess Bhagwati, who has
the ability to grant the pilgrim's wishes.
From the riders we learn that the cable car
makes it easier to visit, as in the old days
it was at least an arduous three-day hike. Of
note, we never see the temple. What happens is
the cable car will arrive at the station,
which is too dark to see anything and this
gives the filmmaker the opportunity to use
that moment as a fadeout and to load a new
roll of 16mm
film for the next ride, as each roll lasts for only
the 9-minute ride. After the blackout the new
passengers are seen, in what seems like one long shot.
a doctoral candidate in anthropology, records
the sound while stationed in the cable car,
while her partner Pacho
a political documentary filmmaker, operates
Most riders admire the landscape, commenting on how well the corn grows, the beauty of the hills and the Sal trees. They casually chat and mention that their ears are popping, and its most comical moments has two ladylike older women eat fast melting ice cream and try not to get it to drip on them.
It won some prizes at the Locarno Film Festival, but this is not a film for a wide audience. But for the curious viewer, one looking to be transported to a higher level by a different type of film, it could be a mesmerizing experience.
REVIEWED ON 8/23/2014 GRADE: B+
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ