Synopsis

500 miles on foot. Bunk-beds. Blisters. Stunning landscapes. World-class snorers. Hot searing sun, freezing cold rain. Kindness from strangers. Debilitating injury. Unexpected romance. No toilet paper when you really need it. Profound grief and deep doubt. Hunger. Laughing with new friends. Total exhaustion. You are guaranteed to experience all of this when walking the ancient pilgrim path, the Camino de Santiago.

Across Spain, this sacred path stretches westward to the city of Santiago de Compostela where the bones of the apostle St. James are said to be buried. The Camino is world-renowned; UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site and the Council of Europe declared it the first European Cultural Itinerary. Millions of people from all over the world have traveled this trail for over 1,000 years – in 2010 alone, over 270,000 people attempted the arduous trek – each one a seeker of something.

In the Middle Ages, pilgrims sought forgiveness of their sins and admission to heaven. The Camino remains, for many, a quest of faith. Others begin with no spiritual impetus in mind, but nevertheless are drawn to examine their personal beliefs and life purpose. And others are in it simply for the intense physical challenge. Whatever their motivation, no one can predict just how their path will unfold, who they will meet, what personal demons or angels they will face, or what transformations they will undergo by the trail’s end.

Walking the Camino is an up-close look at one of humanity’s most time-honored traditions. By following pilgrims from all walks of life as they attempt to cross an entire country on foot with only a backpack, a pair of boots and an open mind, we witness the Camino’s magnetic and miraculous power to change lives. Driven by an inexplicable calling and a grand sense of adventure, each pilgrim throws themselves heart-and-soul into their physical trek to Santiago and, most importantly, their personal journey to themselves.

The Making of…

Walking the Camino has been in the making since fall, 2008, when Director/Producer Lydia B. Smith returned from walking the 500-mile trail herself. With the incredible in-kind support from countless individuals, albergues, organizations, businesses and Spanish governments, we were able to begin production.

On April 22nd, 2009, our crew converged upon St. Jean Pied de Port, the traditional starting point of the Camino Francés. Coming from Chile, Germany, Italy, Spain, the USA, Argentina, and Brazil, and ranging in age from 21 to 62 years old, our 12 crewmembers were as diverse as the pilgrims themselves. We shot primarily on the Sony Ex–1 & 3 High-Definition video cameras.

During these beginning stages of the trail, we fatefully encountered the travelers that would become the cast of Walking the Camino. To truthfully capture the pilgrim experience, our three camera units trekked alongside them, conducting walk-and-talk and stationary interviews over the six-week journey. Allowing us an even more personal entry into their journey, our main pilgrims recorded hours of their own intimate video-diaries during moments of introspection on the trail or inside the albergues (special pilgrim hostels). Behind the scenes, several crewmembers captured the crew’s own candid experiences throughout the film’s making.

On June 8th, 2009, the filming of this journey was completed at the route’s official end: the city of Santiago de Compostela. We returned to the United States with over 300 hours of footage, having followed over 15 pilgrims and interviewed dozens of Camino experts – the scholars, priests, health professionals and hospitaleros (pilgrim-hostel volunteers) who live on the Camino and serve hundreds of pilgrims every day.

Current Status

We are now traveling around the US & Canada and screening the film! Click here to find out more about current & upcoming screenings.

The Film’s Message

Walking the Camino presents universal themes through personal stories for those seeking to redefine the way they live their lives, to deepen their relationship with themselves, and to rediscover their connection with the world in which they live. Many refer to the Camino as a ‘metaphor for life,’ in that each person must determine and find their own way – what is right for one may not be for another. There is no single right way to do the Camino, nor to live life.

Our film will speak to young viewers in the process of self-formation, offer a way for retirees and mid-lifers to reflect on their past and possibilities for their future, and encourage our disabled population to think beyond their limits. Rather than merely entertaining with mental diversion, the film will engage its audience in an active rumination on their own lives.

The Camino provides a structure with no agenda where one can develop themselves from the inside-out. Walking for miles with only nature and their thoughts for company, pilgrims are forced to step out of their comfort zones, look inward and examine their fears, insecurities and prejudices towards others.

Out of such self-awareness inevitably emerges open-mindedness and generosity, as pilgrims help each other reach the finish line. Generosity emerges in touching moments of kindness: when one pilgrim suffers from a heavy load and cannot go on, another carries their backpack without a second thought; when one runs out of cash, another will loan even a complete stranger whatever they need. The Camino is a great equalizer, where our differences become irrelevant and our similarities more apparent.

Our documentary, just like the Camino itself, will create this sense of global community and spark a dialogue about life’s biggest questions. Amidst a time of considerable social malaise, Walking the Camino will illuminate what enables us to transcend the perceived boundaries of race, language, social status, age, faith and nationality, and remind us of what is best about being human.

Awards

American Documentary Film Festival (Palm Springs, CA) - Audience Favorite

Rainier Independent Film Festival (Ashord, WA) - Best Documentary

Newport Beach Film Festival (Newport Beach, CA) - Outstanding Achievement in Documentary Filmmaking

Festival Cine Y TV Camino de Santiago (Spain) - Best Documentary

Hollywood Film Festival (Los Angeles, CA) - Best Documentary

Mt. Hood Independent Film Festival (Hood River, OR) - Best Documentary

Ft. Lauderdale International Film Festival (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) - Best Documentary

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I see the film?

Currently, the film is playing at theaters across the US and Canada. The best way to know about our upcoming events is to visit the Current & Upcoming Screenings page on our website. Or sign up on our website or Facebook page for email updates.

What can I do to bring it to my area?

Click here to find out how to bring Walking the Camino to your community!

When will the DVD be released?

We’re aiming for a Fall 2014 DVD Release. Click here to pre-order the DVD!

If the film is finished, why are you still fundraising?

We still need to raise the funds necessary to create our DVDs and pay our small staff while we are on the hunt for a distributor. Also, although we are excited to air on PBS, we have to raise $85,000 to pay for all the costs for a national airing.

Why don’t you try Kickstarter?

After much consideration for one of the many crowdsourcing campaign sites, we decided to create a similar formatted fundraising campaign on our own website. Sites like Kickstarter take a fairly significant percentage of the money raised. By doing it ourselves, we can make sure that more of the money you donate goes directly towards the project and not to a third party (Paypal takes 2.8% and the rest goes directly to the film.)

I donated and asked for the gift of viewing the movie online. When can I see it?

Once we are done with our film festival run. Most festivals will not show your film if you have had any sort of public screening, especially if you have shown the film online. And even more important is it hurts our eligibility for the majority of distributors. But don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about you!

I would like to show the film at our institution, and have the director come out to speak about the film. How can I make this happen?

We have two options for you. One is to rent the film for a one time viewing. The other choice would be to have Lydia come to your institution to teach classes, speak about the film, and conduct a Q&A after the film. Time is pretty limited for this option as Lydia’s travel schedule for 2014 is quite busy while we are on tour with the film. Please contact our office for more information: info@caminodocumentary.org or 503–206–4968.

When will the film air on TV?

This all depends on when we get a distribution deal and have the money raised for airing fees.

Will I be able to screen the film online?

Definitely! We will be renting and selling the film online just as soon as we can. Sign up for our email updates so we can let you know as soon as that option becomes available.