One of the best releases of 2014 is on an extended run at BFI Southbank. Details here.
A huge audience-pleaser at festivals around the world, Manakamana is a gentle pleasure, with humorous moments and serious themes. The documentary was filmed entirely in a cable car transporting visitors and locals to an ancient Nepalese mountaintop shrine. In journeys of 10 minutes – the length of a single reel of 16mm film – we witness 11 unedited encounters, from a trio of gossiping old ladies in traditional costume to a group of teen rockers.
Little White Lies review:
It may sound trite to say so, but the film is about nothing and it's about everything. It allows you to see as much or as little as you want. Maybe some will see it as a quaint people-watching comedy which explores facial expressions, age, beauty and stillness? Others might see it as a being more of a cinematic work, posing questions about the relationship between subject and camera, the relationship between subject and director, and even whether this is a film in which the industry term “director” is even valid? You could even ingest it as a purely ambient work, and in the spirit of the passengers themselves, take the practical option of using the time to allow life to gloss past your eyes and meditate on other Earthly matters. Maybe even consider what other Earthly matters are going through the heads of the people on screen?
Perhaps this is a pessimistic view of things, but Manakamana feels most enriching as a work about life and death. The people who sit in these cars are whisked across what looks to be highly treacherous (albeit breathtaking) terrain without the merest consideration for potential mortality. Stunning beauty and fiery death buffet against one another as we humans casually slip between the tiny slither of space that parts them. Manakamana itself is a temple which sits at the top of this line, and so the metaphor feels extended to one of life, death and transcendence.
Here (and above) is the trailer.