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Manakamana cover photo

Manakamana 2013

Highly Recommended

Distributed by Cinema Guild, 115 West 30th Street, Suite 800, New York, NY 10001; 212-685-6242
Produced by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel
Directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez
DVD , color, 88 min.

General Adult
Anthropology, Documentaries, Experimental Film, Religion, Transportation, Tourism

Date Entered: 11/14/2014

Reviewed by Linda Frederiksen, Washington State University, Vancouver, WA

Located in the Gorkha district of Nepal, the Manakamana Darshar P. Ltd Cable Car Company has been in operation since 1998. Modern Austrian-built cars whisk passengers of all types to the mountaintop temple of Bhagwati, a Hindu goddess believed to grant wishes. The journey high above a green, tropical landscape takes approximately 10 minutes. The 3425 foot ascent and descent of eleven different cars forms the structure of the film, and the riders its main characters.

Each trip is captured in its entirety as a single fixed shot on 16 mm film. There is no narration other than whatever conversation takes place on the cars. It seems, at first, to be a thin premise for a feature-length documentary. Context and meaning grow with each trip: a young boy and his grandfather, single women carrying flowers to the temple, three elderly chatty women, four unruly goats, the small talk of husband and wife, a trio of fidgety young men, an American and her Nepalese friend, a mother and her daughter eating ice cream, and two traditional musicians who use the cable car ride to tune and play their traditional stringed instruments.

Viewers familiar with the work of producers Castaing-Taylor and Paravel (Sweetgrass (2009) and Leviathan (2014)), will recognize their distinctive sensory technique. Innovative editing, photography and sound are hallmarks of these films, capturing mundane or commonplace activities and making them wondrous. An official selection at the New York and Toronto Film Festivals, Manakamana successfully expands the boundaries of film and is highly recommended.