Manakamana (Nepal-USA) – 118 min
Directed by Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez
Breathtaking, poignant and mesmerizing, Manakamana is a documentary shot entirely inside the narrow bubble of a cable car, high above a jungle in Nepal, as it transports villagers and tourists to an ancient mountaintop temple. Filmed in 16mm and comprised of 11 rides (each a single take corresponds to the length of a roll of film), Manakamana is a tender, ephemeral character study of its passengers and a window onto the lush, rolling landscape of a country in transition from ancient tradition to modernity. This evocative and rigorously structured documentary presents a rich sensory experience that ignites the viewer’s imagination to fill in the past, present and future of each moment as they watch. The New York Film Festival calls it, “…an airborne version of an Andy Warhol screen test…an endlessly suggestive film that both describes and transcends the bounds of time and space.”
Stephanie Spray is a filmmaker, phonographer and anthropologist whose work explores and exploits the confluence of social aesthetics and art in everyday life.
Stephanie is currently a PhD candidate and Teaching Fellow in the Sensory Ethnography Laboratory, housed in the Anthropology Department at Harvard University; has a secondary field in Critical Media Practice; and is a fellow at the Film Study Center. She holds a Master’s degree in the study of world religions from Harvard Divinity School and a B.A. from Smith College.
In 1999 she began studying music, religion and languages in Nepal, and since then has spent copious time practicing the art of “wandering” (dhulna jāne) with a community of itinerant musicians called the Gandharba.
She has made several video works in Nepal, including Kāle and Kāle (2007), Monsoon-Reflections (2008), Untitled (bed) (2009), As Long as There’s Breath (2010), and Untitled (2010) and, most recently, MANAKAMANA (co-directed with Pacho Velez, 2013). She is currently working on a new piece called Snow River.
Her films have been screened internationally at the New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Locarno International Film Festival, The Whitney Biennial, Vancouver International Film Festival, the Viennale, CPH:DOX, International Film Festival Rotterdam, DocLisboa, Anthology Film Archives, the Harvard Film Archive, Sehsüchte International Film Festival, the Himalayan Film Festival, The International Ethnographic Film Festival of Quebec, and Visual Anthropology Film Festival, with installations of her shorter pieces at Ethnographic Terminalia (2009 and 2010).
Pacho Velez works at the intersection of ethnography, contemporary art, and political documentary. His current project, Reagan Years, explores a prolific actor’s defining role: Leader of the Free World. Told entirely through a largely-unseen trove of archival footage, the film captures the pageantry, pathos, and charisma that followed the 40th President from Hollywood to the nation’s capital.
His last film, Manakamana (co-directed with Stephanie Spray) won a Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival. It played around the world, including at the Whitney Biennial and the Toronto International Film Festival. His earlier film and theater work have been presented at venues such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Museum of Ethnography in Stockholm, and on Japanese National Television.
In 2010, Pacho completed his MFA at CalArts. He now lives in New York City. He teaches filmmaking at Bard College and design ethnography at Parsons The New School For Design, and is an affiliate of the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University.