Author Topic: Mana: Beyond Belief  (Read 1313 times)


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Mana: Beyond Belief
« on: October 01, 2005, 01:48:18 AM »
Directed by Peter Friedman

and Peter Manley

30 September—2 October at 9pm

Metro Cinema

“Everyone believes in something,” asserts the promotional material for Mana: Beyond Belief. Belief would be considered by most to be something of an abstract concept, and while individual beliefs can often make for a compelling topic, most wouldn’t consider the idea of belief itself to be an ideal subject for a documentary film.

When beginning the project, directors Peter Friedman and Roger Manley faced the challenge of how to document the phenomena of belief.

The film opens in New Zealand, where a Maori priest explains the idea of mana—a form of energy, some believe, that is present in everything, and even in people. Friedman and Manley make the idea of mana an understated theme throughout the film, as we watch people react to ceremonies, as well as objects of belief.

“The old Polynesian notion of mana provided the key,” explains Manley, in the film. “They realized long ago that the meaning and power of things is based on what we know or believe about them. An old weapon that had killed a lot of enemies had much more mana than a new weapon. But actually, that’s the way people think about all kinds of things.”

Mana takes its audience on a world tour, exposing viewers to many such “power objects.” The objects in question range from the sacred (the shroud of Turin) to the somewhat frivolous (low-riding cars), and from the beautiful (Rembrandt’s “The Man with the Golden Helmet”) to the grisly, when we are, at one point, introduced to a man who collects the desiccated body parts of famous people.

Mana is, in many ways, a unique accomplishment in the art of documentary filmmaking. By forgoing a typical narrative style reliant on voiceovers, Mana has put the “document” back in documentary, taking a step back and simply capturing events on film and letting them speak for themselves.

As a result, not only was Mana obviously a challenge for Friedman and Manley to make, but it’s also challenging to watch. While at times the film grips the viewer tight and manages to keep hold of their interest, at other times it leaves the viewer at odds with his or her own attention span.

The film was shot in the increasingly popular High Definition format. The result is a visually stunning presentation that at times truly captivates the audience, drawing them into some of the film’s most fascinating moments. Visually, the film is a unique product, particularly because it lets these visuals speak for themselves. This would likely make this film frustrating for the casual viewer—no one explains what’s going on, and all the viewer has to make a judgment upon is the behaviour of the people on screen. But, then again, this is the point of the entire film. Mana is an exploration of the concept of belief itself, with the individual beliefs being immaterial for the purpose of this film.

Even at a mere 90 minutes, Mana feels much longer, and it should. You better believe that watching this film is hard work.

From Patrick Ross
Arts & Entertainment Writer
The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world that he did not exist.” - Charles Baudelaire (French and monstrous poet).