Poster for Manakamana

Winter 2015 Documentary series

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 7:00pm

Acadia Cinema's Al Whittle Theatre
450 Main Street, Wolfville, NS

Directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez

Starring Chabbi Lal Gandharba, Anish Gandharba, and Bindu Gayek

Rated G · 1h 58m
Nepal / USA
English and Nepali

View trailer


Far atop the Nepalese mountains, above the trees and river valleys, hangs a gleaming modern cable car, installed in the late 1990s to ferry passengers toward a hilltop Hindu temple a little more than a mile and a half from the ground. A journey to the Manakamana temple, where the Hindu goddess Bhagwati is said to grant wishes, used to be a three-day pilgrimage by foot, its own grueling test of faith. By cable car it takes 10 minutes.

Directors Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez set up a Super-16mm camera in one of these 5-by-5-foot cars and filmed their ascent and return, observing in silence and without provocation the pilgrims and tourists frictionlessly whisked into the sky. The process could have yielded anything. From the deluge of raw material Spray and Velez have culled 11 complete rides, each an unbroken take spanning the length of a 16mm magazine. They recorded life as they found it, and yet nothing in the film feels arbitrary. In editing, they derived order from chance.

“As Manakamana is an observational film, it should come as no surprise that many of its pleasures relate to looking. There is a sense of wonder in the scrutiny it encourages. Rarely, in our everyday lives, are we afforded the freedom to study the faces of the strangers around us, to find in the tiniest tics and gestures a story on the verge of revealing itself. Among the many remarkable qualities boasted by Manakamana, perhaps the most surprising is its humor. A dripping ice cream bar, a bobbing rooster, a kitten tangled in its owner’s hair: These are the details that make Manakamana a delight… But the subject of Manakamana is existence itself, in all its sprawling, endless banality. It shows us the world sitting still for 10 minutes at a time, quiet in the company of men and women and the forested vistas around them. And I’ve never seen anything like it.” (Calum Marsh, The Village Voice)

Manakamana is often funny (two girls who initially seem like antagonistic strangers hilariously turn out to be the best of friends), but it also possesses a serious and sublime spirituality. The filmmakers give each of their subjects’ treks the feel of a divine pilgrimage, with no true beginning or end. You could hardly ask for a more beautiful vision of souls in transit.” (Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York)

“A haunting experience, one that requires patience (and then some) but that offers spiritual, philosophical, and aesthetic rewards beyond the immediate power of words to describe.” (Ty Burr, Boston Globe)