Mana: Beyond Belief
Winter 2006 Documentary series
Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 7:00pm
Rated G ·
Mana, a Polynesian word used to describe the power of things—the inherent energy in a rock, a tree, a painting—is the basis for the powerful and beautifully shot documentary, Mana: Beyond Belief. Traversing five continents over the course of one year, directors Peter Friedman and Roger Manley embarked on a worldwide quest to discover as many different expressions of this concept as possible. The results are mesmerizing.
Arguing that belief is the first step toward fulfillment, Friedman and Manley make a persuasive case by letting their subjects—most of whom are ordinary, secular people—explain the impact of various forms of mana on their lives. According to one Maori priest, any object contains mana if it has the ability to inspire awe in people.
Consider, for example, a painting that was thought to be a work of Rembrandt. It had its own room with special lighting until it was revealed to be a fake; now it sits in a corner of the museum and is virtually ignored by visitors, though it is still the same painting. Why does its association with a famous artist (or lack thereof) make it better or worse?
We also learn that U.S. citizens can mail a flag to their Congress representative and request that it be flown over the dome of the Capitol Building. The flag, which usually spends only a few seconds atop the flag pole, is returned to the citizen with a letter specifying the date on which this occurred. To some, these flags are just pieces of cloth, but for others they are something that represents a nation they love and a day they will always remember. What makes the meaning differ from person to person?
The observations presented in this narration-free film (reminiscent of Baraka) are compelling, thought-provoking and, at times, amusing. Mana: Beyond Belief will inspire viewers to contemplate their own personal ideas on the inexplicable power of objects.