Based on the true story of a Belgian priest who risked his life to help the people no one else would touch.
In 1872, Damien, a young Catholic priest serving as a missionary near Hawaii, volunteers to spend three months working in a colony for victims of leprosy on the island of Molokai. When he arrives, he discovers the lepers have been herded to a barely inhabitable part of the island where they are treated like animals. Damien is shocked, and makes it his mission to improve the lives of the lepers, planting trees to help buffer the island’s strong winds and building huts to house the sicker members of the tribe. Damien also concerns himself with their spiritual needs, restoring a sense of dignity and self-respect among the diseased and urging them away from drinking, sex, and other sinful behaviour. At first, Damien’s pleas to the mainland for medicine, supplies, and medical help fall on deaf ears, but soon the press picks up on Damien’s story — which only angers the Hawaiian government, who would prefer the plight of the lepers be forgotten. When in the end he contracts the disease himself, Damien knows he will be living out the last years of his life on Molokai, working to ease the pain of his fellow victims to his final breath.