We think of hermits as reclusive. That’s not Ken Smith. He’s lived off-the-grid for more than 40 years, in a wood cabin on Loch Treig in the Scottish Highlands, a 27 mile walk to the nearest postbox. But he’s a garrulous, personable chap if you find your way to his hearth, as filmmaker Lizzie MacKenzie did some years ago. Now in his 80s, Ken chats happily about his lifestyle (“If you want to get away from civilization, you need to learn to fish”), his love of nature, and the circumstances which brought him to this place. Beaten up by a gang of youths at 26, Ken was in a coma for several weeks. To his doctors’ surprise, he relearned to walk, talk, and write, but especially to walk. He explored the Canadian wilderness solo for two years. When he returned home, it wasn’t there; his parents had passed.
It may be one part eco documentary, but the emotional subtext is the rapport between this cheerful old man—a wonderful photographer incidentally—and young Lizzie, who befriends him and films him as his health begins to fail and hard choices are faced.
Audience Award, Glasgow 2022
Friday October 07
More Films in this Series
8 Stories About My Hearing Loss
In this autobiographical documentary, director Charo Mato flits between childhood stories, the science of hearing loss, and the poetry of life and language to explore the stories of the d/Deaf and hard of hearing while resisting a monolithic experience.
The Hermit of Treig
In this rather special film, Lizzie MacKenzie trains her camera on octogenarian Ken Smith, who has lived more than four decades off-the-grid on the shores of Loch Treig, in the Scottish Highlands. This cheerful hermit is a personable storyteller.
See You Friday, Robinson
Iranian filmmaker and author Ebrahim Golestan finds a new pen pal in Jean-Luc Godard. Their correspondences are full of poetic contemplations, cryptic riddles, and mutual reverence as they meditate on being an artist in the 21st century.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Directors Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castaing-Taylor utilize micro-cameras to wander the human body without limit. The horror of open surgery gives way to the abstract beauty of medical imaging, repurposing it to craft a harrowingly immersive documentary.
The Rocket—a paddle steamer—has been ferrying rich and poor through Bangladesh for the best part of a century. This kinetic and artfully chaotic hybrid documentary immerses us in a two-day journey and gives us a vivid snapshot of the country.
Geographies of Solitude
Jacquelyn Mills immerses us in the natural wonders of Nova Scotia's stunning and remote Sable Island, home to wild horses, sparrows, invertebrates, and a devoted researcher. Winner of multiple awards at the Berlinale and Hot Docs.
In the personal and poetic documentary, Nataša Urban (b. 1977) revisits the conflict that tore Yugoslavia apart through the prism of her immediate family and friends' often reluctant recollections, piercing a web of self-protective amnesia.
Compiled from government and TV news footage from the 1960s (with commentary and brief on-screen contextual notes), this transfixing, resonant essay film looks at the widespread civil unrest of the period, and how the establishment chose to respond.
Robbie Fraser, Amy Hardie, Benjamin Taylor, Mark Thomas, Louise Thornton, Lisa Marie Russo, Jane Ray
Naomi Spiro, Lizzie MacKenzie
Kieran Gosney, Ling Lee
Cameron McLellan, Mischa Stevens
Lizzie MacKenzie is a self-shooting director from the Scottish Highlands. Her fascination with rebellious characters living life on the edge of society led her to spend seven years developing the trust of the protagonist of her debut feature, The Hermit Of Treig, which won the prestigious Audience Award at the 2022 Glasgow Film Festival. She was part of BFI’s showcase The Camera Is Ours: Britain’s Women Documentary Makers.