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Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

Walking is one of the primal metaphors of human consciousness, something we all understand as representing the passage from cradle to grave. So it’s no surprise that the act of walking—epic, seemingly pointless walking over great distances—grabs our imagination. Under his Richard Bachman pseudonym, Steven King wrote a novel, The Long Walk, about a social ritual in which 100 teenage boys walk until only one is left alive. Around the same time he was writing that, mystery novelist Lawrence Block, the Buffalo native whose A Walk Among the Tombstones will be released as a film this September, was working on Random Walk, in which a man starts to walk and picks up followers as he goes. Where are they going? Who knows—they never arrive.

There’s nothing quite that dramatic or metaphysical in the documentary Walking The Camino: Six Ways To Santiago, but it tugs at your imagination nonetheless. The Camino de Santiago is a walkway that extends 500 miles, from the border of Spain and France to Galicia, near the Atlantic coast of Spain. More than a thousand years ago, it was decided that here is the tomb of the apostle Saint James, and people began to make the walk as a spiritual pilgrimage. (It was the setting of Emilio Estevez’s film The Way, which was popular with Buffalo audiences during its run here a few years ago.)

People still make the walk—rather a lot of them, in fact: more than a quarter million per year at least start the journey. A few years ago filmmaker Lydia B. Smith was one of those. The following spring she returned with a camera crew to follow a half-dozen people as they walked the Camino.

Why are they doing this? Not because it’s easy. It’s less punishing than, say, mountain climbing, but it is grueling, taking between a month and six weeks. Hostels are set up along the way for them to eat and sleep, but they’re bare-bones affairs. Of the six people we follow, a few are religiously motivated, the rest are doing it in the hope of gaining perspective on themselves, some clarity, maybe a positive outlook.

Some of you will find this preposterous. I would not argue with you, and you will have no trouble finding movies more to your liking. Some of you will be compelled to see this. The screenings on Monday and Tuesday will be presented by director Lydia B. Smith, who will do Q&As after all except the first and last screenings of each day.

Opens Friday at the Eastern Hills Mall.

Watch the trailer for Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

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