A still shot inside a cable car follows its occupants up a lush hillside to a Nepalese temple. There is no score. The first half an hour is silent other than the sounds of birds and the mechanics of the cable car. When the first words were spoken the audience cheered. The trip to or from the temple takes about ten minutes, so in two hours that allowed for about twelve trips.
This intense focus makes us pay very close attention to the people on camera. We notice their clothes and faces and demeanour and conversation. Most are traditional Nepalese villagers bringing offerings. A few are tourists.
Manakamana comes from the tradition of ethnographic film and is a project of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab. It is not experimental and it is not conceptual art. It is about people and culture. Such a film should make us evaluate our assumptions and think about our daily routines and rituals. If should also make us consider our surroundings. This is exactly what Manakamana does. It is not entertainment and it requires engagement and thought from the viewer. It is not as teeming with life as it could be but at least it's something different.
Catch the last show on October 9th at 4:30 at the Vancity Theatre.