Can a movie motivate you to walk 500 miles? Maybe Camino doc will

Darlene Shea
Published on July 11, 2014

CHARLOTTETOWN – A word of caution, if you go to see "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago" at the City Cinema in Charlottetown. The film has been motivating thousands of people to walk 500 miles across northern Spain.

The award-winning documentary film by American director and producer Lydia B. Smith is coming to Charlottetown July 18 to 22.

For many centuries, people have travelled to northern Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago as a pilgrimage for personal development and spiritual self-enlightenment. It is no small undertaking and yet in 2010 alone, over 270,000 people attempted this arduous trek across beautiful and rugged terrain.

This non-profit documentary, which raised just under $500,000 from private donors over the course of five years, has made its way onto the list of top 10 documentaries of 2014 with just a small committed staff and dozens of volunteers.

This ambitious, independently produced film takes an in-depth look at a group of people who completed the journey, each with their own reasons, motivations, and expectations, equipped with only a backpack, a pair of boots, and an open mind.

Walking the Camino is a total immersion experience that captures the trials and tribulations associated with a group of modern pilgrims who decide to walk the ancient path. The cast of people featured in the film run the gamut of ages ( from 3 to 73), as well as nationalities, religious backgrounds and experiences on the Camino.

In the spring of 2008, Smith walked the Camino herself. The effects it had on her were life-changing. Annie from Los Angeles, who, with a typical can-do attitude, was called to do the Camino for spiritual reasons. She soon comes face-to-face with her own innate competitiveness, especially when the Camino's intense physical challenge starts to take its toll on her.

Jack and Wayne are two well-traveled Canadian retirees. Wayne, 65, is a recent widower who walks to honour his wife, and Jack, 73, is an Episcopal priest who performed the funeral for Wayne's wife. Jack always wanted to walk the Camino due to his interest in history. Wayne loves the one-way nature of the Camino, which represents leaving his past and walking toward his future.

Misa is a health and sports student from Denmark who considers herself to be spiritual but not religious. She sets out to travel alone to become more connected with herself, but when she meets William, the only other pilgrim that can keep up with her notoriously fast pace, her intentions get pushed aside.

Sam is a Brazilian woman in her 30s who was desperate for some force to turn her unhappy life around. She left behind everything she knew in Rio de Janeiro, purged her life of nearly all possessions, and fled with a one-way ticket to Spain. Even though she suffered from clinical depression, she decides to throw away all of her prescribed medication, trusting that the Camino – the meditative act of walking, the nature, and the people met along the way – will restore balance to her body’s chemistry.

Tomás, 30-something and athletic, was torn between kite boarding on the coast or “hiking” the Camino. He chose the Camino because it was more of a physical challenge. He gets what he asks for, as his biggest challenge becomes the immense physical pain that he experiences. He must learn to persevere as the struggle to complete the Camino becomes more painful with every step.

Tatiana is a French 26-year-old single mother who sets out for the Camino because of her devotion to God. She brings her brother Alexis and three-year-old son along with her on the* trek. Originally, Tatiana was delighted to have her brother with her on the Camino, especially for sharing the responsibility of her son. Things quickly become challenging for her, however, as Tatiana and Alexis begin to argue at every turn. Her quest to seek a richer relationship with God is tested as she is forced to face the problems in the relationships with her brother.

The star of the film, the Camino itself, is showcased with elegant cinematography that captures and depicts the gorgeous scenery and breathtaking vistas, from the raindrops on leaves to the fields of grass, mist covered mountains, colourful sunsets and truly inviting local people and historic surroundings. The film captures the personalities and inner challenges of the pilgrims and their transformations along the journey. Viewers get to experience the drive, questions, the pain, the joys, and the revelations that these modern day pilgrims find along the way.  

Screening times for the movie at City Cinema are 6:45 p.m. on July 18, 9 p.m. July 19, 6:45 p.m. July 20, and 7 p.m. on July 21 and 22.