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In 2007, Lydia B. Smith was experiencing several transitions in her life.
At first, Smith, who works in the film industry, felt sorry for herself during this time of change. But then she made a choice to take advantage of it by walking along an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain called the “Camino,” or in English, “the Way.”
Her experience of walking along this path to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela at the northwestern tip of Spain was so moving that, a year later, she and a crew of 12 people divided up into three camera units and began filming a documentary about the Camino.
This film, Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, will have its Midwest premiere on Oct. 20 during the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.
The documentary shows the experiences of several pilgrims from various countries and faith backgrounds as they wind their way, with all of its blessings and crosses, over hundreds of miles on foot to Santiago.
“To me, [the Camino] is such a metaphor for life and for spirituality in that just because we’re on different paths doesn’t mean that we can’t respect and admire each other’s paths,” Smith said.
Although the Camino is deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, Smith, who is not Catholic, tried to make the film appealing and meaningful for a broad audience.
“My intention in making the film was that it would be completely appealing and acceptable equally to someone that is very devout and to one that is agnostic,” Smith said. “That was kind of my biggest challenge, and I feel like my great accomplishment. It doesn’t isolate any particular population of belief. To have it be acceptable to everyone was really important to me.”
Nonetheless, Smith said in her own experience of the Camino and in making the documentary, it was important to honor not only the Catholic roots of the pilgrimage route, but to show how Catholics who minister along the way welcome pilgrims as an expression of their faith.
“I think of the Camino as the Catholics’ gift to the world,” Smith said. “I was really struck by how incredibly loving so many of the priests [along the Camino] were and so many people in the churches. It really didn’t matter what faith you were or if you had none.”
She said that she hopes viewers of the documentary will walk away from it having experienced “a sliver of the experience of what you get when you walk the Camino,” and that they “will open their hearts to God more, however that [relationship] is manifested.”
Walking the Camino will be shown at 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 and at noon on Oct. 26 at AMC Traders Point, 5920 W. 86th St., in Indianapolis. It will be shown at 6:45 p.m. on Oct. 22 and at 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 24 at AMC Castleton Square, 6020 E 82nd St., in Indianapolis.
Smith will be available for a question-and-answer period with viewers after each showing, except for the one on Oct. 20.
Tim Irwin, artistic director of the Heartland Film Festival, expects viewers will like the documentary. That’s because people filled theaters during the festival in 2011 for showings of The Way, a film about the Camino that starred Martin Sheen and was directed by his son, Emilio Estevez.
“Our audience loved that film, and [it] got them really interested in the Camino. In fact, I lost one of my screening committee members that help us watch the movies [in advance],” Irwin said with a laugh. “She was going to walk the Camino. I thought, ‘Oh, that’s great. I’m glad that you were so inspired. But I need more people.’ ”
Irwin noted, however, that Walking the Camino will appeal to audiences that might not know much about the pilgrimage route in advance.
“It does a really interesting job of exploring the human journey, both in a kind of literal way as a walk and as a spiritual way,” Irwin said. “It kind of opens up different facets of why people are motivated to do certain things, what drives them to further themselves and what brings them together as well.”
(To purchase tickets for showings of Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago, log on to www.heartlandfilmfestival.org. To learn more about the documentary or to view a trailer for it, log on to www.caminodocumentary.org.) †