Europe is littered with bucolic hamlets nursing leftover identity crises as a result of post-WWII population shifts, and “A Town Called Hermitage” is one of them. Ethnographic smarts could earn easygoing docu fest berths and tube play, followed by modest ancillary. Pic nabbed the docu prize at the 2007 edition of the Czech Republic’s Jihlava nonfiction fest.
Divided into upper and lower regions, Dolni Poustevna (“Hermitage”) straddles the Czech-German border and even has a modest customs checkpoint in the middle of town. Helmers’ sound idea was to get to know a variety of locals and observe their daily rhythms. Vietnamese teenager “Denisa” is bored silly; elderly Sudeten German Elisabett is regretful; fiftysomething German tourist Volker Heymann comes for the brothels; Dutch native Daan Kristel raises a family off the grid; and Lubos Stich is gregarious frontman for a group of special needs men. “The people who came here after 1945 didn’t bring any traditions,” sighs Elisabett, and Denisa thinks “it was better in Vietnam than here.” Thus, burg is either serene or stifling. Tech credits are trim, with Zoran Marelja’s otherworldly score a major plus.