The Hermit of Treig
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
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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.