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Sensory Ethnography Lab: Experiments with Cinema

Courtesy of The Cinema Guild.


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy Street
Cambridge MA

This series highlights contemporary work produced at Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab (SEL) exploring the intersection of cinema and anthropology. Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and managed by Ernst Karel, the lab provides an academic context for the development of creative works that test and respond to the traditions of documentary film. Anthropologists and artists who conduct research at the SEL investigate processes of realism and representation, expanding the potential of visual and acoustic media to represent indigeneity and alterity, lived experience and cultural difference, around the world.
The depictions of landscape and time presented in this series resonate with those found in the Harvard Art Museums’ special exhibition Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia (February 5–September 18, 2016) and in Ben Rivers’s nine-channel installation The Shape of Things (July 1–October 25, 2016), commissioned as a project for the museums’ Lightbox Gallery, on Level 5. Each of these projects challenges our relationship to the past, revealing new strategies for encountering ancestral and natural worlds.

Join us for weekly Sunday programs during the run of the series.

About today’s film:
Manakamana (2013)
118 min.; color; Nepali and English with English subtitles
From the producers of Leviathan comes a stunning new journey, an exhilarating documentary that takes place entirely in the sky. High above Nepal’s lush, mountainous landscape, a cable car carries pilgrims, villagers, and the occasional American tourist to an ancient Hindu temple. For centuries, devoted followers had to undertake an arduous multiday trek to reach the shrine of the wish-fulfilling goddess Manakamana. Today, the trip takes just under 10 minutes.

Filmed entirely inside these cable cars as they glide over fog-enshrouded peaks and remote villages, Manakamana captures the conversations of its passengers—personal exchanges, anecdotes, shared observations on the landscape below—and emerges with a rich, vibrant view of Nepal, a land of ancient traditions and rituals on the brink of a technologically-powered future (
Manakamana premiered at the 2013 Festival del film Locarno (Switzerland), where it received a Golden Leopard.
Director: Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez
Producers: Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel
Camera operator: Pacho Velez
Sound recordist: Stephanie Spray
Production supervisor: Ram Krishna Gandharba
Film editor: Stephanie Spray and Pacho Velez
Translation and subtitles: Stephanie Spray
Post-production sound: Ernst Karel
Post-production picture: Patrick Lindenmaier

The screening will be held in Menschel Hall, Lower Level.

Director Stephanie Spray will offer introductory remarks and will participate in a conversation with the audience after the film.

Free admission

Support for this program is provided by the Richard L. Menschel Endowment Fund. Modern and contemporary art programs at the Harvard Art Museums are made possible in part by generous support from the Emily Rauh Pulitzer and Joseph Pulitzer, Jr., Fund for Modern and Contemporary Art.

Lead support for Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia and related research has been provided by the Harvard Committee on Australian Studies. The exhibition is supported by the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian Consulate-General, New York.