Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Jul 27th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Heart and Sole

Walking-The-CaminoModern pilgrims trek to Santiago in engrossing doc 'Walking the Camino'

You may require a tube of Ben-Gay after you watch Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago. Not that it's an ordeal to sit through this movie; far from it. Filmmaker Lydia B. Smith has crafted an engrossing documentary about the fabled medieval pilgrimage route from southern France across northern Spain to the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, and the international mix of modern-day pilgrims who choose to follow "the way."

But the pilgrimage itself is so enormous, and Smith so skillfully inserts the viewer into every twist and turn of the 500-mile, 35-day trek that the audience starts to feel as physically exhausted as the participants. Happily, as the individual stories play out onscreen, we also begin to share at least an inkling of the particular brand of madness and exaltation that drives these pilgrims on to achieve their physical, mental, and/or spiritual goals.

Once a Roman trade route to the sea, the Camino de Santiago ("the Way of St. James") was rebooted as a Christian pilgrimage site after the construction of a shrine to the apostle, St. James, in the 9th Century, where the 11th Century Romanesque cathedral now stands. Filmmaker Smith walked the entire camino in the spring of 2008, gaining a sense not only of the route itself—much of it through small, stone rural villages and lush green valleys—but also of the community of hikers who follow it and their disparate reasons.

Few of the latter-day pilgrims who populate Smith's film have overtly Christian motives. Frenchwoman Tatiana cites wanting to feel "more of a sense of God" along the route, a goal complicated by the active three-year-old son she pushes in a stroller most of the way, and her laid-back brother, Alexis, a non-believer, whom she brings along as co-kid-wrangler. Spry Canadian septuagenarian Jack is a retired Episcopal priest, but he's there to support his longtime friend, Wayne, who's on a personal symbolic quest to honor his beloved late wife, close the door on the past, and march into the future.

Like many of the pilgrims, Misa, from Denmark, considers herself "spiritual, but not religious." A fast walker who welcomes physical challenges, she's looking forward to solitude along the way, to reconnect with herself—until she meets William, a younger Canadian man who's walking the route to stay in shape. Spaniard Tòmas is also attracted to the extreme-sport aspect of the walk; he almost went kite-surfing instead, but decided walking the camino would be more of a challenge. Plagued with injuries from the outset, he determines to tough it out.

Injury-riddled, too, is the American, Annie, battling constant pain in her legs. Embarrassed that "everybody is passing me!"—even the seniors—she falls off the others' pace by about two days while traveling between the hostels and "albergues" (shelters) set up for the pilgrims along the route, and wonders if she'll be able to finish. But the injuries are internal for Sam, a vibrant thirtysomething Brazilian woman fleeing upheaval in her personal life who's hoping the experience will restore her sense of harmony with life.

The road takes these pilgrims through fog, rain, mud, and relentless sun, along goat trails up and down mountains, over streams, and alongside busy highways. Blistered feet, tendonitis, and aching ankles and knees turn the journey into an endurance test. Tempers flare, romance blossoms, friendships are forged or tested, and simple acts of kindness from strangers turn into unforgettable epiphanies. (Humor abounds as well, like the symphony of road-weary snoring that fills the hostels at night.)

Yet the rewards are substantial, not only in terms of physical accomplishment, but in insights gleaned along the way. On the road, there are "no hair dryers, no make-up," notes one woman on the trek. "You transform into yourself." Addressing the spiritual aspect of the trek, Tòmas notes, "If it changes you, it is in and of itself spiritual." Then he offers a candid summation of the eternal attraction of the camino, as "an intermission in our real caminos—which is our lives." Smith's film will appeal to anyone who has ever yearned to take a time-out from real life and gain some new perspective.


WALKING THE CAMINO: SIX WAYS TO SANTIAGO ★ ★ ★ (out of four) A film by Lydia B. Smith. (Not rated) 84 minutes.

Comments (2)Add Comment
Camino Pilgrim, Portland, OR
written by Patty Moak, February 21, 2014
Thank you for the excellent review. The author truly “gets it”. I’ve seen the documentary several times and will see it again if it is screened anywhere close to Portland. Lydia truly captured the Camino from the rain and the mud, the pain and the blisters, to the life changing magic and power that is the Camino. Thank you again, Lydia, for giving us this beautiful film. I walk 230 miles on the Camino in 2012 and will return in May 2014 to walk 570 miles.
Can't wait to see this movie.
written by Jane V. Blanchard, February 21, 2014
Thanks for the excellent review.

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

The Binding of Edmund McMillen

How a Santa Cruz designer created one of the most unlikely hits in video game history

 

Sun in Leo, Rosy Star, Venus and Uranus Retrograde

Three major celestial events occur this week. Wednesday, the Sun enters Leo, highlighting the heart center of everyone. Leo is a sign of deep sensitivity (along with Cancer). Wednesday is also the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, one of the most misunderstood women in the Bible. Saturday, July 25, Venus turns stationary retrograde at 0 Virgo (progressed Regulus, the Law, Hall of Records). Venus retrogrades for 44 days and nights, forming one petal of a five-pointed rosy star (pentagram) in the sky (five retrogrades over eight years = star). Venus retrograde turns values upside down. Our usual sense of beauty, values, the real price of things, relationships—all turn into a bundle of confusion. We don’t seem to know anything. Luxury goods are mispriced, values are jumbled, we wonder who that person is we’re in relationship with. We don’t know where our money is or where it’s gone. Venus, in daily life, represents values (resources, money, possessions and quality of relationships). Venus retrograde asks, “What do I value?” Venus retrograde puts us in touch with what has changed and what is truly of value in our lives. Venus retrogrades from 0 Virgo to 14 degrees Leo (July 25-Sept. 6). Leo is about the self and our creativity, which is how we come to know and value ourselves. We “know ourselves through what we create.” In Venus (values) retrograde (inner focus) we will ask, “What are values (not just money and finances)? What are my values? What do I create? How do I value my creations? Do I value myself?” Sunday, Uranus—planet of all things new, revelatory and revolutionary—also retrogrades (from 20 to 16 degrees Aries) until the full moon of Christmas Day. Five months of Uranus retrograde. In July and continuing on through the following months we have many planets retrograding. Things therefore slow down. Everyone’s focus becomes subjective, hidden by veils and curtains. A time when inner reserves of strength are available. A time of protection.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 24

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

AJ’s Market

Local cult fave keeps getting bigger and better

 

What do you think of Bernie Sanders?

He’s what we need, more hardcore Democrats. Old-school, ’70s-style Democrats. Tony Dolan, Santa Cruz, Freelancer

 

Hunter Hill Vineyards & Winery

Calling all Merlot lovers—Hunter Hill has released its 2013 estate Merlot ($25)—and a superb one it is, too.

 

Turn Up the Beet

Golden beets with buffalo mozzarella, plus single-malt whiskies and award-winning local Chardonnays