Emma Townley, Marketing Manager at Southampton’s Harbour Lights Picturehouse, discusses this week’s Discover Tuesdays presentation of MANAKAMANA.
From the team who brought us the stunning documentary LEVIATHAN comes this immersive audiovisual journey to and from the Manakamana Temple. You will need a head for heights – why? Because you are about to join the passengers in a cable car travelling up a mountain over the spectacular backdrop of Nepal.
You are a part of this story, invited into the personal space and moments of complete strangers as you join people, and sometimes animals, on this relaxing yet surreal journey. Some fellow passengers do not utter a word, but you start to question their stories. You wonder who they are, where they’re from, and why they have chosen to visit the temple.
Some passengers give you a snapshot of their lives as they chat, igniting your curiosity and encouraging you to envisage their wider world. There are moments of playful humour as passengers joke together and a group of sarangi players launch into an impromptu musical performance. As the passengers remark on the landscape around them, they point out the hills, the new houses, and the old path where pilgrims would trek to the temple on a progress that used to take days and now takes minutes.
While the frame remains focused on the passengers, we build up a vivid mental picture of the landscape through their conversations, and gain an insight into the tension between ancient and modern. Directors Velez and Spray (an ethnographer) create an expansive and revealing portrait of an area, the people and culture, all without leaving the cable car itself.
You are reminded of those times you are sat on public transport, flicking your attention between the outside world and the person sitting opposite you. As humans we are curious, inquisitive and somewhat nosey, characteristics which this documentary reflects creatively. With a vast amount of compelling visual content and enveloping ambient sounds, it is both hypnotic and contemplative as you are free to sit back and enjoy the ride.
I was captivated by the realisation that this film had been a continuous shot with beautiful transitions as our next cable car companion joins us in silhouette, before the natural light unveils their identity. If you enjoy culture, art, and day-to-day people-watching, then this unique and thought-provoking film will fascinate you.
MANAKAMANA plays across Picturehouse Cinemas as part of our weekly strand Discover Tuesdays today. Click here for booking information.