In 2022, Los Angeles-based composer and violinist Bryan Senti released his meditative album Manu, blending neoclassical music with the Latin American music of his ancestors. The album was accompanied by this eponymous film by Guggenheim Award-winning filmmaker Alexandra Cuesta. Cuesta’s documentary, filmed entirely on 16mm, explores the highlands of the Andes, the coast of Ecuador and parts of the Amazon. The entrancing music and her rhythmic black-and-white shots merge into a film-poem that, like the album, takes the form of a journey—into the interior as well as the exterior world.
In gorgeous, contrast-rich scenes we see horses along the coastline, clouds stretching across mountains, water flowing over glistening stones, fingers tracing the outline of a rock, an illuminated white hat—alternating in short and extended shots. Manu: A Visual Album is also a documentation of the landscapes and traditions of Ecuador that are on the verge of disappearing. It uses recollection to capture something distant yet somehow familiar. It contains something from the past and yet still is in the present—something intimate and all-embracing at the same time.