When director Emilio Estevez’ feature narrative film “The Way” was released in 2011, audiences across the United States and many countries were introduced for the first time to the ancient pilgrimage route “El Camino de Santiago de Compostela.”
I had the opportunity to interview Martin Sheen at that time for NCR and followed it up with anarticle about a screening in which Sheen, his son Emilio Estevez, and producer David Alexanian, spoke to the audience after. “The Way” is a fictional story about an American eye doctor who takes his deceased son’s place on the Camino and is transformed.
At this writing, a documentary about the Camino is being released: “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago.” It was in production at the same time as “The Way” but the filmmakers, led by director/producer Lydia B. Smith, ran out of funds to finish it. Sheen, who saw an early cut of the film, called it “brilliant” and “wonderful.” Sheen is known for his generosity and kindness so his comments may seem effusive. However, this documentary is very fine indeed.
“Walking the Camino” follows six key pilgrims: Samantha Gilbert (Brazil/UK), Tomas Moreno (Portugal), Anne-Marie “Misa” Misser (Denmark), Wayne Emde (Canada), Tatiana Jacquot (France) and Annie O’Neil (USA and a co-producer of the film). Of course there are others who come in and out, hostellers who comment as well as a bishop and a Franciscan priest.
As in “The Way,” this film starts at St. Jean Pied de Port, the beginning of the most famous of all the pilgrim routes to Santiago, the Camino Francese. As one priest says at the beginning of the film, people make the pilgrimage for many reasons: devotion, purification, and penance being the more traditional motives. In the olden days, going back 1,200 years, people used to walk the Camino instead of going to jail, and even then some people would pay others to walk it for them, which rather defeats the purpose. One thing is for sure, walking the Camino will change your life.
Single mom Tatiana is walking the Camino with her 3 year-old son Cyrian in a stroller and her brother Alexis. Tatiana is a believer while her brother is not and they are an unlikely pair because they don’t usually get along. They make it together almost the whole way before Alexis’ party behavior and language divides them. But at the end Tatiana admits that she started the Camino wanting to change Alexis but she is the one who changed.
Samantha lost her job and is depressed. But she discards just about everything, even the pills, before starting the Camino. She cut her hair and dyed it another color. And for a whole month she goes without shampooing her hair. By the end she has found interior meaning and a resolve to really live. She admits that people told her she would find answers on the Camino but realized that she didn’t even have the questions. The more she walks, the more her depressions lifts.
Wayne is a widower who is walking with Jack who had presided over his wife’s funeral four years before. Early on he reflects that “there may be something beyond this, but today I have this, the Camino, and I will walk this day the best that I can.” Jack is more spiritual than Wayne and says, “If you go to Santiago searching for him you will not find him … unless you take him with you from the beginning.” Later Wayne says, “Every day is a journey and the road itself is home” ….
Click here to CONTINUE READING my review at the National Catholic Reporter …
Click HERE for the film’s official website.