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Manakamana (2014) — NepalManakamana (2014) — Nepal

By Dan Clendenin

           Manakamana ("desire of the heart") is a Hindu goddess to whom an ancient temple is dedicated high atop a mountain in Nepal. In this experimental documentary film, we watch pilgrims as a cable car ferries them to the sacred site. Our field of vision is limited to the rectangular window of the cable car. Below is the lush forest, isolated villages, a tiny ribbon of road, and a trail that was used in the old days for the three-day walk to the shrine. There is no narration or script, just the rumble of the cable car and the silence or chit chat of the passengers: "My ears are popping… The hills are gigantic…" There are eleven vignettes, as different passengers take the ten-minute ride up the mountain, including one segement of five goats tied together. I watched this film because a major critic listed it as one of the best films of 2014. It's an ethnographer's dream, and was made by Stephanie Spray of Harvard University's Sensory Ethnography Lab, but otherwise will have limited appeal. In Nepali with English subtitles. I watched this film on Netflix streaming.

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