Ano Eremita

Hermits (2015) (Documentary - Bill Porter)

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Hermits (2015)
This documentary reveals the daily lives of Zhongnan hermits.
1h 27min
English subtitles


Storyline . . .

25 years ago, American author Bill Porter (a.k.a. Red Pine) went to the Zhongnan Mountains to seek out modern Chinese hermits. His resulting book, Road to Heaven, was a touchstone for many westerners wondering what remained of Buddhist and Daoist asceticism in China. Now, for the first time, Bill Porter revisits Zhongnan to seek out those who seek from within, living quiet lives of deep devotion in some of the world's most stunning locales.

~ Emei Movie Channel


Directors : Shiping He, Peng Fu, Chengyu Zhou
Writers : Peng Fu, He Shiping, Chengyu Zhou


Review by a 2015 Alexandria Film Festival judge . . .

"Are you here, Master?"

This documentary follows a 71 year old American, Bill Porter, to a mountainous area of China. 25 years ago he visited and wrote a book about the solitary monks who live here in the mountains, some in caves. Now he returns to see how the hermits are doing. Some whom he met have died but he finds the area still populated by male and female monks who spend their days in meditation, chanting, and exercise. The camera follows him as he laboriously moves from site to site and talks with different hermits about how they spend their days. The movie is slow and deliberate. Nothing is sudden or sharp. We see the author climb up narrow paths to knock on different doors and ask, "Are you here, Master?"

Everywhere you look you see the mountains, lush vegetation punctuated by craggy rocks, and at the monks' residences, evidence of their Spartan existence. As the movie progresses we see that, not only does the American know the language, he also has extensively studied and translated Buddhist teachings into English and can carry on conversations with the monks about their own thinking. Some have read his book and that provides him credibility as someone whom they can trust.


Production wise the photography, editing, and soundtrack are beautiful. The mountains are gorgeous and the sounds of insects and birds permeate every scene. Common everyday objects and activities are presented in carefully framed and lit views. But the pacing is slow and deliberate. That will be part of the appeal to the viewer who is curious about these people and why they live as they do; others might be bored. The conversations are not terribly deep but we do occasionally see glimmers of insight into why the hermits cut themselves off from "civilization" like this.

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