CAMINO SKIES: Walking the Camino de Santiago for Grief

I am obsessed with the Camino de Santiago. If you don’t know what it is it’s a walk from France to Spain in basic terms. It follows trade routes and pilgrimage paths that have slowly evolved over the centuries with early pilgrimages dating to the 9th Century. The Camino commences on the French side of the Pyrenees and ends officially at the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain. It is approximately 800kms of walking and thousands of people do it annually to challenge themselves and embrace a somewhat spiritual discovery along the route.

I was meant to do the Camino de Santiago three years ago but decided to quit my job instead and then I planned on doing it the year after. My new job company went bust so I decided to commence working for myself which of course does not allow endless free time and abundant holiday loading. It is currently planned for myself to complete it in 2021 or 2022. I cannot wait to do it – I am very keen to complete this pilgrimage on my own and have seen many movies on the subject and even have a bloody expensive cookbook of stories and meals you can experience on the pilgrimage.

CAMINO SKIKES is the latest move on the subject and lengthy hike. It is out now from Limelight Distribution out of NZ. It is rated PG and runs for 80mins. Head HERE to see where it is screening in both Australia and New Zealand.

Camino Skies Julie Zarifeh image
Julie Zarifeh

BY JASON KING

CAMINO SKIES: WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

CAMINO SKIES is the debut feature documentary from emerging Australian/NZ filmmaking team Noel Smyth and Fergus Grady.

Independently shot over 42 days, the film follows the journey of six strangers as they embark on the historic Camino de Santiago – an historic 800km pilgrimage that starts in France and works its way through Spain before arriving in the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Each of the characters have their own reasons for walking but ultimately come together to work through heartbreak and defy their physical ability.

Dealing with themes of loss and hope, the film is an uplifting look at what it means to live with grief.

Premiering at the 2019 Newport Beach Film Festival, the film went on to make its Australasian premiere at Doc Edge Film Festival where it received awards for ‘Best NZ Director’ and ‘Best NZ Emerging Filmmaker’ citing that “The Directors ability to capture intimate, poignant moments with subtlety and restraint while carefully crafting a narrative was both engaging and genuinely moving.”

Camino Skies Terry image
Terry

THE DETERMINED HEROES PUNISHING THEIR BODIES:

CAMINO SKIES follows six antipodeans – this is the best part of the film and probably also one of the things that will let the film down. Originally the film was made for a smaller grey-haired audience in New Zealand. But the reason the people are walking and the characters themselves has gained the film worldwide traction.

Most of them are walking for some form of grief. Claude Trenchant is the only one I never really gauged for her grief (or more can’t remember) but she is also the one who kind of binds the others together and offers some sage advice occasionally.

Julie Zarifeh’s story will break your heart. He husband of 30yrs passed away from pancreatic cancer at age 60, just over two weeks later, her son, Sam passed away in a rafting accident. I could barely cope with her grief watching the movie. She is an inspiration to all and I wish her nothing but an amazing life filled with good fortune.

Terry and Mark are grandfather and father of Maddy who sadly passed away from Cystic Fibrosis at age 17. They are both walking in her honour, a walk she once joked she wanted to join them on.

Cheryl is walking for the love of her life who tragically died in an accident some years back and also for her dad who sadly died just 6 weeks before the start of the Camino hike.

And finally, my favourite person in the movie. Susan Morris is 80yrs old, she has severe degenerative arthritis and a twisted spine, she is in permanent self-grief. She battles on and is in constant pain and admittedly does have to take a bus in a section and a car in another section but I will be grateful to be alive at 80, let alone setting out on an 800km walking trek.

Camino Skies Susan Morris image
Susan Morris

DOES ANYTHING STAND OUT TO MAKE THIS BETTER OR SIMILAR TO OTHER CAMINO MOVIES?

I enjoyed the viewing because I will embrace anything that is Camino related but I can’t see this garnering a huge audience. Seniors might like it as an inspiration and because of relatability. But it really is more of an independent film with a narrow target-audience and a lot more movies set on the Camino do a better job. This would be more suited to an SBS or ABC documentary than a cinema release.

THE WAY is my favourite film on the Camino – as soon as I saw it I started planning my own journey. If you haven’t seen it then DO IT!!! LOOKING FOR INFINITY: THE CAMINO is another wonderful film that people love and keep talking about. Paulo Coelho’s famed THE PILGRIMAGE book is set on the Camino but I couldn’t finish it – it was too spiritual for me.

CAMINO SKIES is also missing proper closure – what did they achieve from their walk? Did they achieve the spiritual enlightenment they wanted? Needed? Was the journey itself their spiritual awakening or reaching the end? Was it worth it for them? Not much of this is answered, it starts telling us why they are doing the pilgrimage but it never ends by answering if they achieved their goals.

Camino Skies Susan Morris and Claude Tranchant image
Susan Morris and Claude Tranchant

IN CONCLUSION:

Check out CAMINO SKIES, if like me, you are Camino enchanted. I plan on walking it in the next three years after two failed trips in the past. I do feel there are better Camino movies out there but the Camino is a beautiful journey and these individuals are journeying all for a grief-of-sorts and their stories and history are engaging, even if it does feel a little intrusive at times.

YOUR CRITIC:

Jason King owns, writes and edits Salty Popcorn and Spooning Australia. A movie, food, restaurant, wine, chocolate, bacon, burger and brussels sprouts addict he is a member of the Australian Film Critics Association and has been in the Australian movie industry for 26yrs. 

He believes all it takes to make a good movie is a bloody good story, with a little luck the rest should fall in line. He is getting a little sick of saying “story story story” in his reviews with so much shite releasing in the last decade. Furthermore he loves watching people trip over and is Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest fan. 

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.