The most visually distinctive film in the festival takes us for eleven cable car rides over the Trisuli valleys in Nepal.
Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez (USA/Nepal, Wavelengths)
Friday, September 6, 9:45 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 3 (350 King Street West)
Sunday, September 8, 9 a.m.
Jackman Hall, Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas Street West)
Sunday, September 15, 2 p.m.
TIFF Bell Lightbox 4 (350 King Street West)
The latest project from Harvard University’s Sensory Ethnography Lab, MANAKAMANA is one of the most singular documentaries to come along in some time. Unlike the Lab’s previous feature Leviathan, which chaotically dispersed cameras throughout a New England fishing vessel to capture something like a cubist portrait of the industry, Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez’s film trains a single camera on a cable car suspended over a hilly region en route to the titular Nepal temple, following nearly a dozen distinct groups of passengers (including a trio of goats) as they make their way to the pilgrimage site.
As simple as the conceit sounds, the rewards are many. For one, the view through the car’s window as we dip and rise over the valley is sublime, looking at times like a rear-projection special effect. Much as one is alternately thrilled and hypnotized by this slow, vicarious ride over the hills, though, the real stars are the passengers themselves—some of them shy, others hammy, and all of them parked in front of the camera for their ten minutes of fame as if in a screen test for the film we’re watching.