DARWIN (Nick Brandestini). 86 minutes. Opens Friday (August 24). For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NNNN
There's a fascination in isolation. And if you've ever wondered how far you'd be willing to go to escape the city, you might want to check out Darwin.
Darwin, California, is a one-time mining town in the middle of Death Valley that's now home to 35 very distinctive souls who've retreated from society in one way or another, only to end up forming an odd new social network in the middle of nowhere.
Director and editor Nick Brandestini gives them plenty of room to tell their fascinating stories in their own rhythms, which may explain why he prefers the term "nonfiction" to "documentary." He's not documenting his subjects' lives as much as letting them explain how they got here. Some have retreated from the world; some never wanted much to do with it in the first place.
And he breaks up the talking-head segments with footage of the community at work - including a prickly meeting of the municipal water board - to illustrate that even at the ends of the earth, it's impossible to get away from everything. Even when you're 1,000 miles from any other group of people, the ones around you will still get on your nerves.