clock menu more-arrow no yes

Why an Australian atheist philosopher moved to Egypt and became a Coptic monk

Father Anthony El Lazarus is a Coptic monk living in seclusion in the Red Sea mountains, in a 4th-century monastery about 200 miles southeast of Cairo, Egypt. A former university lecturer in literature and philosophy, Father Lazarus spent 40 years as an atheist. It wasn't until his mother died of cancer that he left his native Australia and set out to come to peace with what happened. His journey led him to God — and to his life as a monk.

Filmmaker Remigiusz Sowa created a moving 18-minute documentary of Father Lazarus' daily life. Father Lazarus' experience in seclusion is unlike many of his brothers' lives. "If you ask any monk in the monastery, does he know where his father is, does he know where his family are? Yes, he knows very well, and they visit him, and he visits them, and they are very close still." Another unique aspect of Father Lazarus' monasticism is that, unlike many of his fellow monks, he is not Egyptian, and Coptic isn't his mother tongue. He is, in a very heightened way, an outsider both to the world and the monastery.

Sowa did a good job with this short film. The landscapes he's captured are beautiful, and the score he sets them to is equally moving. He's also found a good way to condense Father Lazarus' story down to under 20 minutes, though in a way that doesn't leave you feeling shortchanged. If you're looking for an inspiring weekend short about the mysteries of monastic life in a far corner of the Red Sea Mountains, then have a watch of The Last Anchorite.