Paradoxically, Somewhere to Disappear (2010) is a documentary about people who want to hide. Directed by Laure Flammarion and Arnaud Uyttenhove, the film stars acclaimed Minneapolis-based photographer Alec Soth as he roams the country photographing subjects for Broken Manuel, his latest body of work. He’s looking for hermits, monks, recluses, runaways, survivalists, and misanthropes; in short, men who have chosen to live in extreme isolation. At the heart of his project is Soth’s preoccupation with the question, “why do people run and hide?” This desolately beautiful documentary animates the characters who have the answers, tracking Soth’s project over the course of two years and through countless desserts, forests, and derelict buildings. Living in caves and under tarps, the film gives you the feeling that the world might have ended and that Soth’s characters have survived despite the odds. Best known for his series, Sleeping by the Mississippi and NIAGRA, in which he shot haunting portraits of Americans at home in some of the country’s most neglected small towns, Soth has established himself as a frank but always empathetic chronicler. Somewhere to Disappear continues this tradition, with Soth cast as a sober Mark Twain for the end of the world.
Thursday, Dec. 1, 7:30pm, $5. Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, 1400 North American St. 215.232.5678. philaphotoarts.org