Films about hermits

Here are films of interest about hermits and eremitism, plus films about solitude, silence, and simplicity. They are presented from most recently released to oldest. Trailers or equivalent are embedded when available. The presence of a film here does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation, though all the films present hermits and the related topics in a positive and sympathetic way.

Biographical films (religious)
Feature films (fiction)
Films about solitude and silence

Biographical films (Wilderness) - 16 films

The Naked Japanese: 29 Years On a Desert Island (Hong Kong, 2018)

produced by Docastaway.
from the producer: “Masafumi Nagasaki is an 82 year old Japanese man who has lived completely alone as a castaway for the last 29 years on Sotobanari desert island (Iriomote Okinawa, Japan). This voluntary Robinson Crusoe with his bright pink turban has spent all this time living completely naked and surviving by himself. He has become the voluntary castaway who has lived the longest time on a desert island.The only wish of this survivor was to die on his desert island. But sadly the Japanese Authorities forced him to return to civilization last month. Fortunately we lived with him for 5 unforgettable days before he was kicked out, and were able to share his life and carry out this fascinating interview documentary.
See also short version: http://nagasaki.docastaway.com/

Snow Guardian (US, 2017)

Produced by Day’s Edge Productions for National Geographic.
from National Geographic:
Welcome to Gothic, Colorado -— one of the coldest places in the United States. This ghost town has been abandoned since the 1920s, but there is at least one person who still calls it home. For more than 40 years, current resident billy Barr has lived in a small cabin, recording data about the snowpack to pass the time. In this short film, Morgan Heim of Day’s Edge Productions profiles the legendary local who inadvertently provided scientists with a treasure trove of climate change data. Winner of the Film4Climate competition organized by the Connect4Climate Program of the World Bank.

The Stranger (Ireland, 2014)

Directed by Neasa Ní Chianáin
from the website: "When we are gone, what do people remember of us? Neal MacGregor, an English artist, died alone, prematurely, aged 44, in a stone hen-house that he couldn’t stand up in, where he lived without water, electricity or heating on a remote island. The Gaelic-speaking islanders on the rapidly depopulating island, knew little of Neal during the 8 years he lived there. Who was this Stranger? Was he a British spy recording IRA gun-running routes, as some islanders thought? Was he trying to take control of the island? Was he crazy, as others thought? Or was he just seeking solitude? Neal left behind volumes of beautifully illustrated notebooks and secret diaries, and this beautiful enigmatic film pulls together the jigsaw of missing pieces, and sensitively paints a portrait of a man, living on the edge, physically and mentally, and the insular island community he lived amongst...."

Jack (US, 2013)

Produced by Grace Jackson
from the producer: "Meet Jack English, a 93-year-old legend who lives in a cabin isolated deep in the Ventana Wilderness of California. While on a hunting trip he learned that an old homestead in the Ventana Wilderness was being put up for auction by the estate of a childless heiress. He put a bid on the property and won. On the land he built a small cabin using materials from the land and milling trees by hand. When his wife passed away, Jack effectively left 'society' and moved to the cabin full time."

Japan’s Naked Island Hermit (Japan, 2013)

[unable to remove ads]
produced by Vice Intl, Japan; producer/host/production manager Yuka Uchida.
Follows a typical day in the hermit life of 78-year old Masama Nagasaki, the “naked” hermit of Sotabanari Island, 400 kilometers southwest of Okinawa Island in south Japan. He has lived on the island over 20 years. Nagasaki: “I’m really lucky I got to know this place. It’s almost like the island called me. If I hadn’t experienced living here, it would have been the biggest mistake of my life. I’m so happy now. More than anything I am at peace. I love this peace more than anything. I may not have any belongings, or enough food or water, but I’d take this peacefulness over them any day.”

Emma Orbach: Living Off the Grid for 20 Years (UK, 2018)

produced by Ascend Mind Body (UK); podcast interview
From the producer:
For 20 years Emma Orbach has been living off grid in a house she built herself, and surviving on what nature give her! Living with no electricity in a self-built roundhouse. Her daily chores involve tending to her vegetable plot and collecting fruit, tending to her goats, chickens and horses and chopping firewood. She gets her drinking water from a nearby stream and only ventures to the shops for treats like rice and chocolate. Her evenings are spent in the glow of her stove, cooking her dinner and playing music on her Celtic harp.
See also: Emma Living Off-Grid (2010) – https://youtu.be/BxeDE_wvGTE; I Live Like a Hobbit (2008) – https://youtu.be/nuPQldFfBZc

Dancing with the Dead: Bill Porter (Red Pine) (China, 2013)

produced by CCTV-English as part of its "Expats in China" series
from the original website: "Under the literary pseudonym Red Pine, Bill Porter has become one of the foremost Chinese poetry and essay translators in the world. ... In 1989 Porter came to the Chinese mainland because he wanted to know whether the hermit tradition still survived. [Porter:] "Chinese thought and religion places great importance on solitude."


Somewhere to Disappear (USA, 2011)

directed by Laure Flammarion & Arnaud Uyttenhove; starring Alec Soth; produced by Mas Films.
website: http://www.somewheretodisappearthefilm.com/
from the webite: Somewhere to Disappear is "a film about the desire to run away ... photographer Alec Soth traveled across America looking for people who've retreated from society. Some live in mountain cabins, some in caves, others in the desert. Who are these modern hermits? Why do they want to escape?"

Two Years at Sea (UK, 2011)

Produced by Ben River
from a FilmList review:
A handsome and meditative documentary about Jake Williams, a man living an isolated existence in northern Scotland. Shot on textured 16mm black and white film, Rivers captures the most breathtaking of images. ... Without voiceover or dialogue and through a slightly distant observatory style (there are no interviews here) the film gradually submerges you into the rhythm of Jake’s way of life. The sounds too are bewitching: interrupting the tones of the surrounding countryside are the surprising sound of scratchy songs from Jake’s record player.


Faustino's Patagonian Retreat (US, 2011)

Produced by VICE.com for its Far Out series
also titled/subtitled "Forty Years of Complete Isolation"
Above embedded is part 1 of 4. See also parts 2, 3, and 4.
from the YouTube description:

Since 1965, Faustino Barrientos has lived alone on the shores of Lake O'Higgins in a house built from the remains of a shipwrecked fishing vessel. He's a pastoralist, living mostly off the land and his livestock, with few modern amenities. His nearest neighbors are in Villa O'Higgins, a small community of several hundred people, 25 miles away, accessible only by a two-day horseback ride through rugged mountain animal paths. Every few years, Faustino makes this ride to sell his cattle in town. Currently 81 years old, Faustino is reaching the end of his life, and his self-imposed isolation is being encroached upon by the forces of government, economy, and tourism. In December 2011, VICE went to document his lifestyle and speak with him about the changing face of Patagonia and the gaucho lifestyle.


Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (Germany, 2010)

produced by Babelsberg and Werner Herzog; directed by Werner Herzog.
from the producer:
Werner Herzog presents a picturesque documentary about the life of the indigenous people living in the heart of the Siberian Taiga. The camera follows a trapper through all four seasons of a year. Siberia extends from Ural to the Pacific and is one and a half times the size of the USA. 38 million people live in this giant area, the majority of them in the prosperous south. In the heart of the Siberian wilderness, deep in the taiga and far away from civilization, 300 people inhabit a small village Bakhtia at the river Yenisei. There are only two ways to reach this outpost: one is by helicopter, the other by boat. Here, deep in the wilderness, there is no telephone available, nor running water or medical aid. The people are on their own. The natives, whose daily routines have barely changed over the last centuries, keep living their lives according to their own cultural traditions. If the human civilization was destroyed, they would survive – thanks to the knowledge of their forefathers…

Cold Mountain: Han Shan (US, 2010)

directed by Mike Hazard and Deb Wallwork; produced by The Center for International Education
website: http://thecie.org/coldmountain/
from the webite: Cold Mountain is "a film portrait of the Tang Dynasty Chinese poet [and hermit] Han Shan, a.k.a. Cold Mountain. Recorded on location in China, America and Japan, Burton Watson, Red Pine [Bill Porter], Jim Lenfestey and the legendary Gary Snyder describe the poet's life and recite poems."

The Old Hermit's Hut (Canada, 2009)

produced by Chantal Cholette
from the YouTube description:
Deep in Northern Canada a hermit built a hut on his own using unlikely materials as flattened tin cans for the roof, carpets, and other found materials. One winter, years before, he passed away, with his pet pig. due to the cold. Chantelle Collet would visit the abandoned hut many times in her youth, and returned years later to film the hut. [filmed in 16 mm black & white]


Willard:The Hermit of Gully Lake (Canada, 2007)

Produced by Amy Goldberg
from the website:
In the 1940’s American-born Willard (Kitchener) MacDonald jumped his troop train heading to WWII. Fearing authorities he lived as a hermit deep in the northern wilderness of Nova Scotia, Canada for more than 60 years. This is the true story of "The Hermit of Gully Lake," a man who lived a life that the rest of us could never endure. He was a soul in exile ... that touched the lives of so many ....


The Hermit of Manana (USA, 2006)

produced by Elisabeth Harris


from the website:

Ray Eugene Phillips was born in 1892, attended the University of Maine, fought in World War I, held down a job in New York City in the bustling 1920s, and then, seemingly on a whim, happily decided to leave it all behind for a life of solitude on the tiny, isolated island of Manana, Maine. He spent the rest of his life there, with a herd of sheep and a gander, a small wooden rowboat, in a shack made out of materials that washed up onto the shore.


Alone in the Wilderness (USA, 2003)

Produced by Bob Swerer Productions
Dick Proenneke (1916-2003) ventured alone into the Alaska wilderness in the late 1960s, built a log cabin homestead, and remained living there nearly 40 years. Other Swerer films about Proenneke are Alaska: Silence and Solitude (1998) and The Frozen North (2006).


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PAGE 4: Films about solitude