Playing in limited release in New Zealand cinemas from 11th July, Camino Skies follows six inspirational Australian and New Zealand pilgrims as they set out to conquer the mighty 800km Camino de Santiago. It’s a more everyday, possibly even downright heretical, attitude than one might traditionally associate with a spiritual pilgrimage.
“If it wasn’t for Black Sabbath, I’d never have made it. I’m being dead serious. Where do you get the beers?” So says one of the walkers making the 800km trek along the Camino de Santiago in this doco, revealing a more everyday, possibly even downright heretical, attitude than one might traditionally associate with a spiritual pilgrimage.
As Camino Skies illustrates, there are varied motivations fueling those who undertake the daunting mission. For the six Antipodeans the film predominantly follows, personal challenges provide the fuel. Grief, in particular, is a recurring motivator—a search for meaning for a Christchurch woman mourning the loss of both her husband and son in quick succession; an act of remembrance by a man who’d lost a step-daughter, and walks step-for-step with his father-in-law. Elsewhere, a degenerative arthritis sufferer battles against the onset of her condition and the already-imposing trek.
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What they all share is a sense of vulnerability, one that increases as fatigue and emotion take greater hold. As well as a shared demographic, this group of strangers are all also aged between 50 and 80. That may give you some idea of who this documentary is most likely to resonate with—while 25km of ground a day is a grueling challenge, this is significantly more meditative viewing than the action-packed offerings that may be playing on adjoining cinema screens.
The physical demands of the Camino mean that this is at times an uncensored, unvarnished examination of grief and personal struggles. Viewers prepared to lean into these elements will get the most out of the film, while, others may find the doco a bit of a slog (though at 80 minutes long, it’s no 800km).
Respectful to its subjects, Camino Skies gently lets them recount their trauma, and shows this group of hurting individuals bond with one another through a commitment to their serious physical undertaking. Not as faith-heavy as one might expect, its a sometimes revealing, if only seldom engrossing, true-life tale of overcoming seemingly impossible personal obstacles and tragedy.