In this hypnotic observational documentary from Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, a fixed camera captures diverse travellers – from devout pilgrims to media-savvy metalheads – riding the gondola to and from a Hindu temple in Nepal.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2014
High on a ridge in the Nepalese foothills sits Manakamana, a Hindu temple once approachable only by steep mountain paths. Today the most arduous stage of the trek can be avoided via a ten-minute ride in a cable car suspended high above the bush-clad valleys. This documentary by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab takes us on that ride. Simply placing a 16mm camera in one of the gondolas, they fix our attention on the two or three occupants sitting opposite, as the car makes its circle up to the temple with one group of travellers and back down with another. The film appears to unfold in real time, the only edits taking place in the shadows of the stations where one set of passengers disembarks and new ones clamber aboard for our consideration. Within the inexorable repetition of the gondola’s journey we behold a cavalcade of rich and poor, young and old, the devout, the jocular, the touristic, the anxious, the elated – even a carload of goats. Fall under Manakamana’s spell and you may find ten minutes aloft with these passing strangers stimulating a wealth of speculation and emotion, like the most tantalising of glimpsed connections.