Walking the Camino image
Pilgrim Annie O’Neil, of Los Angeles, follows the Camino de Santiago
Walking the Camino image

Pilgrim Annie O’Neil, of Los Angeles, follows the Camino de Santiago

A Portland filmmaker has created a documentary that follows the footsteps of pilgrims walking the ancient path of the Camino de Santiago. 

“Walking the Camino,” directed by Lydia Smith, is now showing at the Hollywood Theater (4122 NE Sandy Blvd.) in Portland. Eugene native and associate producer Chad Westbrook will answer questions after the Eugene debut, Friday, Nov. 15 at the Bijou Art Cinemas, 492 E. 13th Ave., and the director will host a Q&A after the showing on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Since the Middle Ages, pilgrims have been following the Camino de Santiago in a quest of faith. Today, many of those who walk the Camino seek a physical challenge or an unusual sightseeing opportunity through the countryside of northern Spain. Depending on their pace, pilgrims finish the 500-mile path of the Camino Francés, the most famous route, in as few as 20 days (trekking 25 miles a day) or as many as six weeks.

For many, the experience, despite its physical challenges of blisters and exhaustion, is enlightening and spiritually nourishing.

Despite initial misgivings, Smith began work on the documentary after completing the pilgrimage herself in 2008.

“The pilgrimage was so sacred and so beautiful, I didn’t dream I could do it justice,” she said. “How could you ever capture this experience on film?” But just as she was called to walk, Smith felt called to create the documentary.  

To accurately capture the experience, the film’s camera operators trekked alongside the pilgrims, walking and talking and filming over a six-week journey. The documentary’s main pilgrims also recorded their own video-diaries during moments of introspection on the trail or inside the albergues (special pilgrim hostels).

The documentary includes footage of awe-inspiring Catholic cathedrals, and shares how Catholic volunteers and clergy offer ecumenical and multilingual prayer ceremonies to unite pilgrims from many faith backgrounds.

Smith said her visual aesthetic was influenced by “March of the Penguins,” another documentary about a pilgrimage of sorts.

The filmmaker is seeking a distributor for the independent documentary. At this point, Smith and her team rely entirely on donations and volunteers to publicize and share the documentary.

To find out more about the documentary, log on to www.caminodocumentary.org or check the Facebook page for updates www.facebook.com/TheCaminoDocumentary.

The apostle St. James the Greater — Santiago in Spanish, St. Jacques in French — evangelized the Iberian Peninsula, and his remains can be found in Santiago de Compostela. The Way of St. James, or Camino de Santiago, is actually multiple routes leading to the city that welcomes Catholics and non-Catholics from all over the world.

The Way of St. James originally was intended as a substitute for Catholics unable to complete the pilgrimage to Jerusalem during the Crusades.

Tickets can be purchased online at the Hollywood Theater website, hollywoodtheatre.org, or in person at the box office.