By Matt Hongoltz-Hetling
WATERVILLE — A preview documentary about Christopher Knight, better known as the North Pond Hermit, will air at the Maine International Film Festival, which begins July 12.
The 30-minute film, "Hermythology," is a shorter version of a feature-length documentary that is still being created by student filmmaker Lena Friedrich, 27.
Friedrich made the film with a crew of two classmates from the New York Film Academy. She was in central Maine in late April, shortly after Knight was arrested, to collect material, which will include interviews with area residents and footage of Knight's campsite.
Knight made international headlines after it was discovered that he had been living alone for 27 years in the woods.
He was arrested April 4 and charged with stealing from the Pine Tree Camp in Rome. Police say he has confessed to committing more than 1,000 burglaries, most of which were for food and basic supplies, but also extended to things like watches, TVs and other household items.
Knight is being held in Kennebec County jail pending the outcome of a psychological evaluation, which District Attorney Maeghan Maloney has said could take months.
Much of the public discussion in Maine about Knight has focused on whether he should be punished harshly for his crimes against North Pond residents, or whether he is a sympathetic figure in need of help.
Friedrich's film does not dwell on the debate, but instead focuses on his personal story. Friedrich approaches his story from the angle that a man who wanted nothing more than solitude has been thrust into the international spotlight.
A promotional website for the film, Hermythology.com, prominently features taglines that emphasize the contradictions in Knight's life.
"He lived alone in the woods for 27 years, but ended up affecting an entire community," it says. "He wanted to disconnect from society, but instead became a local celebrity. No one has met him, but everybody has something to say about him."
Friedrich, a native of France, appeared in Quentin Tarantino's Oscar-winning "Inglourious Basterds," a 2009 movie starring Brad Pitt and Christoph Waltz.
Friedrich said she and her film crew plan to return to the Waterville area to do continued filming on the project.
When the film is completed, she said, she hopes to return to the area again for a premiere of the full-length version.
"This is a work in progress," she said, and referred to it as a very rough cut.
In an email, Friedrich said three-time Emmy Award winner Bob Eisenhardt has joined the "Hermythology" team as a consulting editor. Eisenhardt's work was featured in the 2005 Maine International Film Festival, when "Bearing Witness," a documentary he co-directed and which focused on five female career war correspondents working in Iraq, was shown at the Waterville Opera House.
"Hermythology" will be paired with another short film, "Lost on a Mountain in Maine," about Donn Fendler, who survived nine days alone in the wilderness in 1939, when he was 12 years old.
The film pairings are scheduled to be shown at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, and 3:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, both at the Waterville Opera House.
Matt Hongoltz-Hetling — 861-9287