Alys Stephen Center Screens Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago

By on December 3, 2013

Take a life changing journey with Director Lydia B. Smith’s award-winning documentary film Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago to be screened on Wednesday, Dec. 4, at 7 p.m. in the Reynolds-Kirschbaum Performance Hall  of the Alys Stephens Center. The advance screening is free and open to UAB students, faculty, staff and the Birmingham community.

The 84-minute film explores one of humanity’s oldest and most honored traditions: pilgrimage. Six strangers from all walks of life travel together on 500-mile voyage across Spain on foot called the Camino de Santiago. With a backpack and an appetite for adventure, the pilgrims set off on a heart-and-soul quest to Santiago de Compostela, where some believe the bones of St. James the Apostle to be buried. Whether or not this is true, does not always matter to those who make the journey.

Director Lydia B. Smith walked the Camino in April and May of 2008 after breaking off an engagement and choosing the dog over the house. Smith lived in Spain for 6 years, where she had heard about the Camino, but she had never thought to make the journey herself.

“It just occurred to me one day I should take advantage of all that freedom. It never in a million years occurred to me to take the walk, but it dawned on me one day, ‘I need to go on the Camino!’ I had the time and faith to do it and in a couple of months, I was on the Camino,” said Smith.

Smith has produced compelling specials for PBS and CNN in a little over two decades, including They’re Just Kids, a documentary on how children with disabilities can positively affect our lives. On Smith’s pilgrimage, other pilgrims found out that she had independently wrote and produced films and suggested that she produce a film on the Camino.

“One guy in particular told me I should make the film,” said Smith. “I knew how incredibly hard it was to raise the funds and do everything independently. Other documentaries had funding, and to make something without it was a big leap of faith. The other big resistance was that the Camino was so sacred and magical and beautiful that I wasn’t going to do it justice. I didn’t even want to try, but once I got home, it felt like everything in my life led me to that moment.”

By the next spring, Smith found herself back in Spain with an award-winning camera crew. After four months of intensive fundraising and five years of production, Walking the Camino has earned multiple awards from film festivals around the world, including several “Best Documentary” awards. The film has won an award, sold out, or both at every festival it’s been in.

Walking the Camino is on the road to being produced into an hour-long prime-time television special on PBS and as a feature-length film to be released internationally.

“The UAB community and its students are fortunate indeed for us to bring Director Lydia B. Smith to campus for a screening of this outstanding film,” said John Moore, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Smith asks the Birmingham community not to feel compelled to walk the Camino after viewing the film. Instead, she hopes the audience will walk away finding what they personally need.

“What does each person need to take care of themselves, to make them more aligned and connected with the world? The important part [of the film] is for people to find who they are and having a greater understanding for themselves and what works for them,” said Smith.

Smith is currently organizing a cross-country tour for Walking the Camino to kick of mid-February when she picks up her R.V. and sets off on a national campaign to connect with people, churches, and hiking routes.

After attending an advance screening of the film at the College of William & Mary, Professor Moore was inspired to bring this version of the Santiago experience to UAB and Birmingham. Moore actively worked with the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures and Associate Dean Rebecca Bach to bring Director Smith to Birmingham for one of the highest profile events ever associated with his seminar courses on pilgrimage.

“With the recent blockbuster success of Emilio Estevez’s The Way, featuring Martin Sheen, the Road to Santiago has gone beyond the scholarly community to reach a broad audience both in the US and abroad. Walking the Camino will further enhance the profile of this pilgrimage route,” said Moore.

Professor Moore has walked the Camino de Santiago trail with UAB students and has taught several classes on pilgrimage. This fall’s course mainly deals with the Camino but also includes a special focus on Civil Rights pilgrimage.

“Each time, I learn something important and incorporate the best parts of each trip with each new journey. My goal is to keep improving my courses and the UAB on the Camino in Spain program,” said Moore.

The UAB on Camino in Spain program is being offered May 5-30, 2014, and includes a 15-day journey on foot to Santiago de Compostela. Maximum student enrollment is 12. This study abroad program lets students  explore the nature of the pilgrimage routes to Santiago de Compostela, will offer an overview of select aspects of the Camino, and will afford the opportunity for students to complete one of the pilgrimage roads to Santiago.

“I can honestly say that it is impossible to do the Camino, putting one foot in front of the other for 500 miles and not come out of it changed forever,” said Smith.

To apply, contact Faculty Leader John Moore at (205) 873-1334 or jkmoore@uab.edu, or see www.uab.edu/cas/languages.

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