2013 [NEPALI]


Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 96%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 61%
IMDb Rating 6.5 10 735

Plot summary

October 08, 2022 at 08:29 PM


Pacho Velez

Top cast

1.07 GB
Nepali 2.0
23.976 fps
1 hr 58 min
P/S ...

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by rajkumar08 5 / 10

As a Nepali, I don't know what about this cable car ride was so exceptional that it needed a movie.

I was alerted by a Nepali blog to go watch Manakamana. As a Nepali, as Eastern peoples as a whole, we've sub-consciously been trained for occasional cinematic, literary or verbal critics and analysis of various segments of our culture which has trained a part of our brain to just accept these 'mystical' misinterpretations of fundamental aspect of our lives. Hence with that same mind-state I went to the theater with another one of my Nepali friend. At first, I had an idea that they would show the drama in the temple, the sacrifice of animals, the deluded people and all of that which would help further in securing science and progression as a strictly Western heritage by showing the contrast. But I was wrong.

This is a very fair and a nonchalant depiction of a group of pilgrims traveling to the top of a hill which houses a temple we revere as 'Manakamana'. In that, 'Mana' meaning heart and 'Kamana' meaning yearnings, as is believed in Hindu religion, we go there to pray or wish for something by traveling to the top of the mountain and letting the Goddess know. This was previously hard and often took 3 days walk but is now done through a cable car as if one were going to Aspen to ski. So the whole film is just the shot of the travelers inside those cable cars and little bits they spill about their lives. To Orientalists who must be hunting for that deeply Eastern mystic and spiritual getaway through epic visuals and hyperbolic language, it is a disappointment. But even to me as a Nepali who was looking for all the things that a Westerner could get wrong in the depiction of something so complex an idea, I was disappointed. My expectations of misinterpretations were disappointed. I was not contented either. I mean, we were two Nepalese people sitting in midst of this independent-film-watching American crowd and I didn't know what about us in that simple travel to the top of a temple became so mystical that it necessitated a film! I felt that this was something that could be archived as a stock footage of 'The Arrival of Cable Car' in the Library of Congress in Nepal if we had one. But other than that, I only enjoyed watching my people in the rawness that they appeared in. For others, I simply do not know what this depicts.

Reviewed by howard.schumann 9 / 10

In each day and in each moment, a reason to celebrate

If life is up and down with a few bumps along the way, what better representation is there than a cable car's ride up and down a mountain? This particular cable car ride takes place in the riveting documentary Manakamana, a ride that brings passengers, both foreign and local, to the Manakamana Temple in the Gorkha district of Nepal. Consisting of ten-minute segments with extra time taken to show a darkened terminus building, the film is a portrait of nine different families and friends visiting a shrine to the Hindu goddess Manakamana who, it is believed, makes wishes come true.

Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (Leviathan) of Harvard's Sensory Ethnography Lab, with their 16mm camera anchored to the floor, simply filmed people going up to the 17th century temple, as well as those on their way down (one trip is a voyage with four goats tied together being brought to the temple to be sacrificed). Out of thirty-five trips shot by the filmmakers, eleven were selected and the film was edited over a period of eighteen months. Spray, who has lived in Nepal since 1999 knew some of the passengers and this may account for the fact that conversations are natural and relaxed, even though I'm sure they couldn't help being aware of the camera.

The first trip is silent as an elderly man sits next to his grandson, occasionally gazing at the passing scenery as the car climbs higher and higher. When conversations do begin after about twenty minutes into the film, people talk about their families, their religion, the way it used to be, a trail that is no longer used, and the replacement of thatched roofs by slate and slate roofs by tin. Many comment on the beauty of the surrounding hills and the sal trees, said to be favored by Vishnu in the Hindu tradition and under which Buddha is supposed to have been born.

Three older women chant their message of worship to the goddess while, in a sharp cultural shift, three long-haired young men talk about their rock band and take pictures of themselves from their mobile device. Additionally, there are two young women who speak English, one sounding like an American, the other Nepalese. We are also entranced by the journey of two accomplished musicians who perform on the traditional stringed instrument known as the sarangi. One of the most entertaining and playful sequences is that of two older women on their way down eating ice cream on a stick, trying to prevent it from dripping all over them and the cable car.

Many of the passengers bring offerings to the goddess such as a basket of flowers and a rooster, though it is reported that the sacrifice of poultry has been banned. While it is tempting to search for a spiritual message from the film, to me its pleasure lies in the simple joy of just being with a diverse group of people, some young, some old, and sharing some time with them. The American girl tells her friend that she has had a hard time finding something to write in her diary every day, that sometimes nothing really interesting happens. Indeed, we are trained to always wait for something to happen. Manakamana allows us to have the experience that, regardless of its seemingly repetitive nature, life is always new, unique, and beautiful. In each day and in each moment, a reason to celebrate.

Reviewed by ellen5678 10 / 10

Reach for it - it's worth it

I just saw this at TIFF today, and feel like I must write about it.

A lot has been written about this film, so I'm going to focus on a few things that struck me about it. First, it's exquisitely beautiful; set in the mountains of Nepal, we watch as various people and animals go up and down the mountain in a cable car, to and from the Manakamana temple housing a goddess. So, there's not a lot of action, there's no "story", no narration, no guide to help us understand what's going on. But if we're mindful, if we 'go' towards the film, to whatever is happening in that cable car, then the rewards are many. And it's likely somewhat different for each of us.

At first I felt like a voyeur, watching what I imagine was a grandfather and grandson going up. They didn't speak, and the grandfather looked like he might have felt a little self-conscious, but that might have just been my projection. The next person was a single woman bringing what looked like an offering. She too seemed a little tense, and again, it's hard to know why – anticipation of meeting the goddess? the camera? the cable car ride? something else entirely? Then on come people who speak to each other, and it's both a relief and takes a little away from the mindfulness, because our attention is now focused both on what they're saying and on the actual action of sitting in a moving cable car with a staggeringly gorgeous background.

A few of my favourite passengers:

  • The three elderly wives who've left their husband (it seems that they're all married to one man) at home. They calmly sit in a row; the two at the ends chat, while the third middle one is silent except for a short prayer toward the end of their ride.

  • The three young bar musicians provide quite a contrast to the three wives; they chat, they are young, and they are in constant motion. The seat seems too small for them, and yet they are not overweight at all.

  • Like everyone, I loved the comic relief of the two women eating ice cream, with the dynamics of one having a plastic bag to catch the melting confectionery, while the other had to make do with the wrapping and her clothing.

  • The two musicians who play as they descend – it was almost too much sensory input! We have been treated to such incredible visual stimulation, and now the auditory experience of the music—I had to close my eyes because I couldn't handle the intensity of the input from two senses.

There's so much more, but the best thing to do is see the film. Be prepared though, because if you're not ready to reach for it, it will be "boring", as one person said at the screening today. We are as equally responsible for the 'action' as are the filmmakers.

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