Camino documentary features local pilgrims
When Wayne Emde, of Vernon, and Jack Greenhalgh, of Kelowna, set off to walk the 800 kilometres of the ancient pilgrim path that winds its way across northern Spain, they had no idea they would be featured in a film that Martin Sheen calls, “a brilliant documentary.”
Walking the Camino - Six Ways to Santiago follows six pilgrims as they make their way to Santiago de Compostela, where the bones of St. James are believed to be buried.
“The year before, I had walked a 1,200 kilometre Buddhist pilgrimage in Japan with my son, Jason,” said Emde. “When I told Jack about it, he replied that for 35 years, it had been his dream to walk the Camino. I didn’t know anything about the Camino, but if Jack wanted to walk it, I’d go along.”
The two friends met years ago at the Vernon Army Cadet Summer Training Centre, where Greenhalgh was the senior padre and Emde, the public affairs officer. Greenhalgh performed the funeral service for Emde’s wife, Joan, and backyard weddings for sons Jason and Curtis.
Greenhalgh, a retired Anglican priest and former dean of St. Michael’s Cathedral in Kelowna, has been intrigued by the act of pilgrimage and particularly the Camino for many years. He is also a student of medieval church architecture.
“I have always been fascinated by the audacious phenomenon of pilgrimage,” he said. “What it was, why people did it, as well as its practice and customs over 1,000 years of history. Since the 10th century, a continuous stream of people from all over Europe and elsewhere in the world including peasants and paupers, kings and nobles, knights and artisans, popes and monks and modern-day adventurers have risked everything just to walk to the tomb of St. James in the northern Spanish city of Santiago.”
Greenhalgh thinks the answer might lie in the various social and reform movements of the Middle Ages that produced among other things, “those magnificent Gothic cathedrals that now attract modern day tourists. I had to find out for myself.”
On their climb up the Pyrenees on the first day, the two men noticed one of the three videographers that producer Lydia Smith of Portland had recruited, kneeling and filming a snail crossing the path. The next day, at a rest stop, they watched as the crew interviewed Annie, the only pilgrim who had been recruited before the project was launched.
“We chatted for a bit with the crew, and they asked us if we wanted to be part of their project. We were hesitant at first because we had no idea what their approach might be, what spin they would put on the journey. But we figured we could bail out at any time, so we signed on,” said Emde.
For the next five weeks, the two, along with a dozen other pilgrims, were filmed as they walked, ate, lit candles in churches, and slowly made their way across Spain.
“They were looking for a mix of pilgrims,” said Emde. “During the editing process, they focused on six of us. We were the old guys.”
The film has won prizes at many festivals, as well as selling out at theatres in Oregon, Arizona and California.
The film is about to make its Canadian premiere as part of the Vernon Film Society’s 20th annual International Film Festival. It screens at the Vernon Towne Cinema Thursday at 7:45 p.m.
“We’ll do a brief introduction before the showing and answer some questions after,” said Emde.
The Vernon International Film Festival starts today, and continues with two films every night until Thursday. Tickets are $7 per film or $30 for a five-film pass, available in advance at the Towne Cinema or the Bean Scene. For a schedule, visit vernonfilmsociety.bc.ca.