Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Mar 28th
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

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015

In 40 years of publishing, Good Times has seen a lot of “bests.”

 

Spring Triangle: Three Spring Festivals—Aries, Taurus, Gemini

The Spring signs Aries, Taurus and Gemini constitute a triangle of force that sets the template for the nine signs that follow and the template for the entire year (Spring 2015 - Spring 2016) ahead. Aries initiates new ideas, Taurus stabilizes the new thinking of Aries and Gemini takes the initiating stabilized ideas of Aries/Taurus and disperses them to all of humanity. It is in this way that humanity learns new things, with the help of Mercury, the messenger. As Spring unfolds, three elements emerge: the Fire of Aries (initiating new ideas), the Earth of Taurus (anchoring the ideas of God through Mercury) and the Air of communicating Gemini. These three signs/elements are the Three Spring Festivals. They are the “triangle of force” forming the template (patterns) of energy for the upcoming new year. After these three we then have the soothing, calming, warming, nurturing and tending waters of the mother (Cancer). Cancer initiates our next season under the hot suns of summer. Planets, stars and signs create the Temple of Light directing humanity towards all things new. March 29 is Palm Sunday, when the Christ, World Teacher, was led into Jerusalem (City of Peace) on a donkey (humility). Palms waving above His head, signified recognition of the Christ’s divinity. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before the Easter (Resurrection Festival). Palm Sunday begins Holy Week, the week of capture, imprisonment, passion, sacrifice, crucifixion, death and resurrection of the christ. All events in the Christ’s life represent events (initiations) that humanity experiences through many lifetimes. We turn our attention to these holy events this week. Their concepts portray and reveal to us greater spiritual understanding. Then, Aries, the “light of life itself” shines through us.

 

The New Tech Nexus

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

 

Best of Santa Cruz 2015 Editor's Picks

BEST NIGHT CAP WARSAW MULE AT SHADOWBROOK
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Spring Spirits

Sean Venus’ gin straight up, remembering Rosa’s and a tasting of Hungarian wines

 

What’s your favorite most recent outdoor discovery in Santa Cruz?

A hike that’s across from Waddell Beach. I didn’t realize you could go across the highway and do a super simple loop, and it’s beautiful. You can see the coastline. Liz Porter, Santa Cruz, Community Outreach

 

Martin Ranch Winery

Muscat 2012

 

Front Street Kitchen

Pop-up spot attracts paleo crowd with locally sourced low-carb meals