Summit County Camino events support documentary film ‘Phil’s Camino’ | SummitDaily.com

Summit County Camino events support documentary film ‘Phil’s Camino’

Krista Driscoll
kdriscoll@summitdaily.com

When you step foot on the Camino de Santiago, you are immediately connected to every pilgrim who has tread the trail before you and each one who will follow in your footsteps in the centuries to come. Sometimes, these connections are tenuous — a shared meal or a moment of conversation along your journey — but, sometimes, they build upon one another to create something special.

From Thursday, June 4, through Sunday, June 7, in Breckenridge, three women whose lives were connected by the pilgrim's path will come together for a series of events that aim to educate others about this camino through presentations, film screenings and shared experiences.

The events will be hosted by Gwen Edwards, owner of Yellow Arrow Coffee, and Karin Litzmann, owner of the Speakeasy Theater, with special guest Annie O'Neil, an author, director and film producer whose new film with co-director Jessica Lewis, "Phil's Camino," will be the beneficiary of funds raised by the weekend's events.

Litzmann said she made documentaries herself for many years and jumped at the chance to not only support a fellow filmmaker and pilgrim, but also to give back to the trail that led to her friendship with Edwards, whom she met on the Camino del Norte, one of the many routes to Compostela.

“You have all these hours of footage, and you have to let things drop away until you see the film. Like a sculptor says, ‘The sculpture is inside that rock

— I just have to get rid of everything around the sculpture.’”Annie O’Neilauthor, director and film producer

"I really loved her first film and want to see her succeed with her second film," she said. "I opened up the theater and my heart to Annie and her project."

Recommended Stories For You

"This is where the gifts of the camino blossom in our daily lives," O'Neil said. "They heard about 'Phil's Camino,' and they just wanted to help because they're pilgrims. And, that's one of the things that people experience on the camino.

"They experience the importance of help, of being helped and of helping and they experience the intimacy of help, of being helped and of helping; and, once you kind of have a taste for that, you're changed. I am a very lucky recipient of their help."

'Phil's Camino'

The Camino de Santiago, or way of St. James, is a network of routes that begin in various places across Europe, with all trails leading to Santiago de Compostela, a cathedral in northwest Spain that houses the tomb of St. James. In 2009, O'Neil was recruited by director-producer Lydia Smith to take part in a camino pilgrimage that was chronicled in "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago," a documentary that follows the experiences of six pilgrims as they make their way along different routes to Compostela.

"I was the only pilgrim that was kind of pre-selected," O'Neil said. "I had already heard of the camino, but that's how I got involved with walking the camino. Walking the camino and being part of the documentary was a surprisingly life-changing experience."

Coupled with the popularity of the feature film "The Way," starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, the documentary helped catapult the popularity of the Camino de Santiago amongst Americans when it was released to film festivals in 2013 and also captured the heart of Phil Volker, of Vashon Island, Seattle, who attended a screening of "Six Ways to Santiago" with his wife.

"A woman wrote me a note and said, 'We saw your film, my husband and I, and he loved it — he has stage four cancer,'" O'Neil said of her first interaction with the couple. "She said, 'My husband wants to write to you.' And he wrote me the most beautiful note."

Unable to travel to the real caminos in Spain due to his illness and treatments, Phil wrote that he had created his own "camino" in his backyard, and, every day, he would walk the trail, tracking his mileage on a map of Spain and identifying landmarks as they occurred along his route.

"He said, 'Come walk with me," O'Neil said. "I was so blown away."

Coincidence brought O'Neil to Seattle a mere 10 days after receiving Phil's note, and she was soon on a ferry to Vashon Island.

"I felt exactly the same as when I would be having a pilgrim breakfast when walking on the camino," she said. "That same feeling of quiet excitement. … I think I said to him, 'Somebody should make a film about you,' and he just laughed, and I just laughed."

Through endless loops on his constructed trail, Phil walked the full distance to Santiago, around 500 miles, and finally achieved a clean cancer scan and a "chemo holiday" to board a plane to Spain and tackle the real thing. Co-director Lewis' film crew was along for the trip, and the resulting footage from home and abroad will become the new documentary, "Phil's Camino."

"We're getting closer to our final film," O'Neil said. "You have all these hours of footage, and you have to let things drop away until you see the film. Like a sculptor says, 'The sculpture is inside that rock — I just have to get rid of everything around the sculpture.'"

Summit County Camino

O'Neil, Litzmann and Edwards have strung together a series of events for their Summit County Camino to raise funds to complete and distribute "Phil's Camino" and also to give participants a toe-dip experience of what it's like to be a camino pilgrim. Events begin with a camino shell decoration workshop on Thursday, June 4, at Yellow Arrow Coffee. Along with the yellow arrows that mark the camino trails, shells are also an ancient symbol of the Camino de Santiago.

"When people walk the camino, you put a shell on your pack or somewhere on you, and that's how people know you're a pilgrim," Edwards said. "We're going to paint the shells with either a red cross, the other symbol of the camino, or the Colorado flag, so that's an option. It's for people who are thinking of walking the camino or anyone who wants to do a fun arts-and-crafts project."

The weekend continues Friday with Food and Wine of Spain, an intimate dinner hosted by O'Neil at a private home in Breckenridge. The filmmaker said the meal is meant to mimic the everyday celebration of sitting and communing with other pilgrims over food.

"The camaraderie you experience at those meals becomes a big part of the pilgrimage, sitting and eating and drink and sharing that time together," O'Neil said. "I can't recall any conversations that I had. They weren't deeply spiritual or intimate, but there was a real sense of togetherness."

Saturday and Sunday feature screenings of "Six Ways to Santiago," followed by Q&A sessions with O'Neil, who also will lead presentations on preparing for your own pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, the differences between the medieval and modern paths followed by travelers and a discussion of O'Neil's book, "Everyday Camino with Annie."

"It's kind of a 40-day, almost a meditative journey of the camino," she said. "Whether you're in Spain, America, Canada, England, South Africa — the gifts from the camino are available to all of us at all times, wherever we are. I wrote this, and it's a slender little book. It fits in your back pocket."

The premier event of the weekend is a three-hour hike on Sunday that will provide participants with a glimpse of what it's like to trek the camino.

O'Neil said that by stripping us away from our comfy lives, all the things we know very well, a camino journey allows pilgrims to ponder the bigger questions of their lives. And that's what "Phil's Camino" is all about.

"How do we live with well-being in the face of failing health or a serious diagnosis or death?" she asked. "How do we have well-being while we are facing death? How do we live each moment fully while we are walking toward death? We don't consider that. It's almost too heavy to consider — too much to consider, to wrap your brain around — when people close to us die.

"And, so many have experienced that with cancer. I think that's a reason why (the film) resonates with so many people. It definitely resonates with pilgrims."

Summit County Camino schedule

Donations and proceeds from all events will support the making and distribution of the documentary “Phil’s Camino,” from producer Annie O’Neil. Learn more about the film at http://www.philscamino.com.

Thursday, June 4

4-5:30 p.m. — Camino Shell Decoration Workshop, Yellow Arrow Coffee (yellowarrowcoffee.com), Breckenridge, $10, includes materials

Friday, June 5

7 p.m. — Food and Wine of Spain, with Annie O’Neil, private home in Breckenridge off Tiger Road, $100 per person (call (901) 229-4163 for reservations)

Saturday, June 6

10 a.m. — Preparing for Pilgrimage, with Annie O’Neil, Speakeasy Movie Theater (speakeasymovies.com), Breckenridge, $5 suggested donation

1 p.m. — “Everyday Camino,” with Annie O’Neil, Speakeasy Movie Theater, Breckenridge, $5 suggested donation

2 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” (caminodocumentary.org), Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

4 p.m. — Pilgrimage: Medieval and Modern, with Annie O’Neil, Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center, Hopeful Room, $5 suggested donation

5 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

7 p.m. — Walking the Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage, with Annie O’Neil, Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center, Hopeful Room, $5 suggested donation

8 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

Sunday, June 7

8 a.m. — Special Pilgrim’s Service, St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Breckenridge

9 a.m. — Pilgrim’s Breakfast, Yellow Arrow Coffee, Breckenridge, $10, advanced reservations highly recommended (call (970) 453-9093)

10 a.m. to 1 p.m. — Summit County Camino, starts at Yellow Arrow Coffee, ends at St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Breckenridge, $5 suggested donation

1 p.m. — Pilgrim’s Holy Eucharist, St. John the Baptist Episcopal Church, Breckenridge

2 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

4 p.m. — Preparing for Pilgrimage, with Annie O’Neil, Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center, Hopeful Room, $5 suggested donation

5 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

7 p.m. — Pilgrim’s Dinner, Breckenridge Grand Vacations Community Center, Hopeful Room, free, please bring a potluck dish to share

8 p.m. — Screening of “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” Speakeasy Movie Theatre, Breckenridge, followed by Q&A with Annie O’Neil, $10 suggested donation

Go back to article