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Self-shot documentary of homeless man choosing to survive in the wilderness
by Erik Sean McGiven on Jun 02, 2015
The Big Lonely is a captivating film telling the story of
Michael Nelms, a persecuted man beaten down by an uncaring bureaucracy and left
penniless to live on the streets. Having
been a successful car dealer, a real estate broker and the victim of several
bad marriages, retreating to a remote forest hideout seems a logical
choice. Living under a bridge as a
homeless person has no appeal for this man.
As he talks into the camera we discover he has built this
small cabin on federal land and justifies his right to be there by calling it a
mining claim, a bogus one he confesses.
One of his daily tasks is to collect water from a nearby stream. The winter has been harsh and he has to chip
through a foot of ice. Leading the way
is his dog Tic, a mix of wolf and Malamute.
Food is a constant need in this wilderness and obtaining fresh meat is a
demanding challenge. It the winter, elk
and deer go to lower elevations where food is more plentiful and the snow is
not so deep. Snow pack levels have
reached as high as ten feet in past years.
As such, meat sources are limited to rabbits, coyotes, and
rats. Dressing out of such animals and
cooking them is a major part of the film.
Michael shares his fixings with his dog Tic and their relationship is
one of equal partners in their quest to survive.
However, the survival issues are not what make this film
unique, it's the positive attitude of the participants, both Michael and his
dog, Tic. They accept the hardships as a
part of life and work together to overcome them. When a bear attacks Michael and pins him on
the ground, he knifes the animal in the windpipe. He describes this ordeal in detail, down to
the whizzing sounds as the bear gasps for air. It's a horrendous moment in his
life and he displays the resulting scars with some trepidation. While the bear meat did get them through
another winter, the attack left him with repeated nightmares. Michael recounts, "Dreams are where you
take you mind. Nightmares are where your mind takes you."
It's philosophies like these that give weight to this film,
that this man has learned from his time in the wilderness, and openly shares his
thoughts with us. He talks about dying and wanting his body to replenish the
land that fed him for so many years.
With supplies running low in the midst to winter, the two journey some
fifty-miles to restock. Michael sets up
camp outside the town and finds various jobs to buy supplies that will get them
through the next winter.
You may be asking how could he videotape this much footage
without an electrical source to recharge the camera batteries. While not covered in the film I did notice a
couple of solar power devices mounted on a tree, which likely allowed for the
The film is a stunning self-shot account as we eavesdrop on
a man finding peace and understanding in the Oregon wilderness. It is one man's inspiring story of resilience
and the durability of the human spirit.
A heartwarming film, “The Big Lonely” imparts prophetic wisdom about the
sins of the past and hopes for the future.
CREDITS: Cast: Michael Nelms; Director - David Manougian; Producer
– Troy Gamble & David Kamens;
Executive Producer - David Monougian; Editor - Kerribeth Elliot Camera
Setup & Consulting – J.P. Morgan; Camera & Sound - Michael Nelms; Composer
& Performer of Original Music- Robin Zimmermann; Sound Editor – Reed
Harvey; On-line Editor - William
Schultz; A Juicebox Production Presentation; Unrated; 82 Minutes.
July 13, 2020