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‘Walking the Camino’ documentary brings back memories for local pilgrim

In about 40 days, St. Charles resident Drew Pistilli and his wife, Sarah, walked from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, France, to Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

The couple, who celebrated their one-year wedding anniversary along the way, completed the 500-mile journey through Northern Spain as part of the Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route dating back to the Middle Ages.

The trek, which has been hailed as an inspirational and spiritual journey in Brazilian author Paulo Coehlo’s “The Pilgrimage” and actor Emilio Estevez’s film “The Way,” also is the subject of the recently-released documentary “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago,” which is premiering Friday at the Gene Siskel Film Center in Chicago. 

Pistilli, 35, who is a member of the American Pilgrims on the Camino Chicago chapter, said he is looking forward to the film’s release and hopes it will “bring back the memories and feelings of that place in that time” of his life.

As a Catholic, Pistilli said his journey was faith-based and adventure-oriented, but that “everybody’s purpose for being on the trail is unique and different.”

The 90-minute, nonprofit documentary directed and produced by veteran filmmaker Lydia B. Smith spotlights the lives of six pilgrims as they follow their own paths along the ancient route.

The characters, whose motives and nationalities vary, include an overly goal-oriented American, a Canadian widower walking the route in honor of his wife’s memory, a young Brazilian woman whose life has hit rock-bottom, and a French woman traveling alongside her atheist brother and 3-year-old son.

“I wanted the film to be an accurate representation of the kind of people you meet and the things you hear and the things you see,” said Smith, who deemed the Camino a life-changing experience after completing it in 2008. “Even if you’re not interested in the Camino, I think it’s an inspirational tale to watch other people in their real-life journeys.”

Pistilli, who has walked the Camino twice, said the journey was a learning experience, and he hopes the film will inspire others to make the trek.

“If there’s one thing I learned, it’s when your life is simpler, it’s so much easier to see that God is working in your life.”

If you go 

What: “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” documentary limited engagement screenings.

Where: Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., Chicago

When: Screenings run Friday through July 17. Showtimes vary. 

Info: For showtimes or to purchase tickets, visit

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