FILMS WORTH WATCHING by Robert Alstead
• Next month it will be 20 years since I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the medieval pilgrim trail that traverses the North of Spain. So it was something of a nostalgia trip watching Lydia B. Smith’s Walking the Camino: Six Ways To Santiago (Vancity 1-7, 16th and 23rd), a documentary that captures the spirit and sense of fellowship one feels when walking the historic route. Smith followed six “fatefully encountered” pilgrims and their walking companions for some six weeks as they trudged the 500 miles from the traditional starting point of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France in April 2009 to the medieval town of Santiago de Compostela.
As in Emilio Estevez’s enjoyable drama The Way, which was set on the Camino and starred the director’s dad Martin Sheen, Smith explores the pilgrims’ motivations and transformations. They walk for religious convictions, solitude, to heal or for an alternative to learning kite-surfing. Through varied and often magnificently shot scenery, the pilgrims share that sense of letting go of their cares, as well as the superfluous contents of some of their backpacks as they become more seasoned pilgrims. “I found myself losing everything I wished for. I no longer need anything. The Camino brings to you a peace that you can’t describe,” says one of two fit, old gents from BC who provide some lucid commentary on the Camino effect.
What sets the Camino aside from any other long hike is the 1,200-year-old history that seems ingrained into the surroundings and the warmth and hospitality of people along the way – in particular, fellow pilgrims and volunteers who run the string of auberges (pilgrim hostels).
The doc provides a glowing impression of the conviviality of the Camino, balanced with the inevitable blisters, physical pain and sweaty, shared dorms. It doesn’t give you a strong sense of any individual’s journey, but the impression it leaves of the Camino will certainly pique one’s wanderlust.
The Vancouver Latin American Film Festival returns on August 28 (until September 7), with 73 films, including 36 feature-length films. With $5,000 in cash prizes for winning filmmakers in three competitions – New Directors, Documentary, Short Film – as well as an Audience Award this year, expect some high calibre works.
The festival opens with the Argentinian, romantic comedy Lion’s Heart (Corazón de León) about a successful lawyer, Ivana, who falls for a 4.4-foot architect and closes with the hand-drawn, animated feature Anina, about a 10-year-old girl who goes on a voyage of self-discovery after getting into a playground fight. Other highlights include the classic 1968 Cuban film Memories of Underdevelopment (much more exciting than the title suggests), the film adaptation of Gabriel García Márquez’s novella No One Writes to the Colonel (1999).
To give you a sense of the festival’s range, there’s a series of Afro-Cuban films, films in Basque – one of Europe’s oldest languages – a Chilean-Canadian cinema showcase and a screening of films by BC First Nations filmmakers alongside works by indigenous filmmakers from Oaxaca, Mexico. Tickets go on sale August 12 at www.vlaff.org
The Cinematheque’s annual film noir season is back in August with a dozen classics from the forties and fifties, the heyday of the genre. Among them are new restorations of three classic noirs: The Lady From Shanghai, Gun Crazy and Double Indemnity. The latter is also in a triple bill on Sunday 3rd, along with The Maltese Falcon starring Humphrey Bogart, and Mildred Pierce, which won Joan Crawford an Oscar for the lead role.
Robert Alstead is making a BC-set documentary Running on Climate. Support is welcome at www.fund.runningonclimate.com