From Harvard’s experimental Sensory Ethnography Lab, which gave us 2012’s haunting fishing vessel doc Leviathan, comes Manakamana. This is an altogether different beast from that previous effort, with a new directing team: while Leviathan was a forceful sensory overload, Manakamana is more tranquil in tone and visual setup, but it’s no less affecting for it.
Spray and Velez’s film is ostensibly made up of a dozen or so vignettes following various groups of pilgrims (ranging from locals to North American tourists to... goats) as they make trips to and from the legendary Manakamana Temple in Nepal using cable cars, with a stationary camera positioned in the cable cars documenting their journeys.
An intimate humanist experiment, the film provokes much delight in its playful structure and in how its rotating ‘protagonists’ act and interact for the omnipresent cameras, with absorbing, sometimes funny mini-narratives created for all of them despite their limited screen time. And with the goat section it's the closest we're going to get to an Abbas Kiarostami remaking of Le Quattro Volte. [Josh Slater-Williams]