CAMINO SKIES, New Zealand, 2019. Directed by Fergus Grady, Noel Smyth. 80 minutes, Rated PG (Mild coarse language).
The immediate audience for this documentary film from New Zealand are those who have walked the Camino, especially the route across the top of Spain from the Pyrenees to Compostela. It is the kind of film that will bring back many memories, joyful memories, probably some exhausted memories, lots of comparisons of different experiences.
The more long-term audience for Camino Skies would be those who are contemplating doing the walk, checking on their motivations, whether they be humanistic for non-believers or spiritual for believers. The selected characters in this film are proof that the 800 km walk is possible for a wide range of men and women, even for those who are older than they used to be.
Audiences keen on the Camino will have seen Emilio Estevez’ feature film, The Way, featuring Martin Sheen and a cross-section of pilgrims with a cross-section of motivations making their way across Spain. Then there was a documentary, The Camino, Six Ways to Santiago, a bigger budget than for this film and a larger number of characters, especially from North America and from Europe.
This is a New Zealand production. The pilgrims are from New Zealand and Australia who are joined by a woman from Belgium. They are presented as very ordinary people, especially as we are introduced to a 70-year-old woman who suffers from severe arthritis for whom the Camino proves to be something of a way of the cross, often painful, but ultimately triumphant. There is a woman in her 50s whose husband has died and she walks the way with a combination of both grief and hope. There is a friendly elderly man and a middle-aged man, one might think not immediately built for such a long walk, but his daughter has died of illness and he is trying during the walk to find some meaning for what has happened to his daughter.
And so, we accompany these people, meeting a number of other cheerful people on the way, fellow pilgrims, providers of hospitality…
And, there is always the Spanish countryside, the flat plains, mountains and hills, some rough going, some highways, always the possibility of getting lost.
For those who are not going to walk the Camino and have no intention of doing so, they will probably observe with some interest, some sympathy for the characters, but, perhaps, observing it at something of a distance.
However, it is an amazing phenomenon, the Camino, increasing numbers walking it, some alternate routes, even from Lisbon to Santiago. We are told that more than a quarter of a million people walk the Camino each year.
While the Camino has religious origins, and there is a brief introduction and explanation by Filipino Salesian priest, it is both a spiritual and secular pilgrimage, an alternative to being continually busy, a possibility for reflection if not contemplation, a challenge for self-assessment, probing some of the deeper meanings of what it is to be alive, to be joyful, to suffer, to be young, to grow old.
The films on the Camino remind us that while we are surrounded by secular and secularised culture, there are further questions to be asked and further answers to be discovered.
Limelight distribution Released August 8th
Peter Malone MSC is an Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting.