Private Project

The Isolato

Beginning in the winter of 2010, filmmaker Rebecca M. Alvin began filming an eccentric resident of the town of Brewster, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Joel Connolly, though originally from the Chicago area, had been coming to Cape Cod with his family since childhood. But around the age of 50, he dropped out of society and came to live in their summer cottage without electricity, running water, or heat. He lived their year-round, through harsh New England winters, without any income, living off of plants and leaves as well as roadkill for many years until the house burned down, leaving him to build a plastic teepee he constructed himself. "The Isolato" is a portrait of Joel, filmed over the last 9 years of his life, which touches on themes of individualism, environmentalism, over-consumption, and the inescapability of man’s connection to society. No man is an island, no matter how much he wishes to be one.

  • Rebecca M. Alvin
    Voices (1996); Our Bodies, Our Minds (2000); Women of Faith (2008); Out of Service (2010)
  • Rebecca M. Alvin
    Voices (1996); Our Bodies, Our Minds (2000); Women of Faith (2008); Out of Service (2010)
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    28 minutes 38 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    March 3, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Rebecca M. Alvin

Rebecca M. Alvin (MA, Media Studies, The New School; BS, Film, Emerson College) has been working with film in a variety of ways for close to 30 years. Born and raised in Queens, New York City, she studied film scoring at Berklee College of Music and filmmaking at Emerson College, both in Boston, and earned a Master of Arts degree in Media Studies at the prestigious The New School for Social Research. She has directed & produced three feature-length documentaries, which have shown in venues all over the world and span in subject matter from women in the Catholic Church (Women of Faith - distributed by Women Make Movies) to feminist sex workers (Our Bodies, Our Minds - distributed by The Cinema Guild). She has also made four short films, including her latest The Isolato, about eccentric Cape Cod resident Joel Connolly, whom she followed for the last 9 years of his life. Alvin is also a writer and film teacher. She is has been Editor at Provincetown Magazine since 2008 and has been teaching film at various colleges and universities since 2001. She currently teaches film and media studies for The New School in New York City. In 2012, she created and programmed the first Cape Cod Festival of Arab & Middle Eastern Cinema, a biennial festival that brings diverse films to her community.

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Director Statement

I have always been drawn to unique voices that depart from the ones we normally hear. "The Isolato" is the culmination of 9 years of time spent with an incredibly unique person who changed my life in many ways. It is one of my most personal documentaries in that regard and I look forward to sharing it with audiences around the world, carrying forward Joel's personal ideology of self-reliance, care for the environment, and individuality.