What You Need To Know:
SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN has high production values, with outstanding cinematography and music. However, its effect could have been greater with more directed editing. The movie has a strong Christian worldview, with a decidedly Roman Catholic, mystical bent. For example, the narrator says the sacraments have “saving power,” whereas Protestants would say they are a “means of Grace.” He refers to the Virgin Mary as “The Blessed Mother.” Besides these concerns, SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN presents no objectionable material. So, MOVIEGUIDE® simply advises some media wisdom for older children and adults.
SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN is a special documentary about the history and continuing impact of El Camino de Santiago, The Way of St. James, a pilgrim trail with many converging roads through Europe leading to the traditional resting place of the saint’s remains, the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN has high production values with outstanding cinematography and music, but its effect could have been greater with more directed editing, and the movie’s Christian worldview has some Roman Catholic, mystical content requiring media wisdom, although many of the Pilgrims are Protestant and many of the refugios, where Pilgrims stay, are run by evangelical ministries, such as CRU or Campus Crusade for Christ.
“Santiago,” as the movie points out in its opening, is the Spanish name of St. James, who was an Apostle of Jesus and became the Patron Saint of Spain and of Pilgrims. For hundreds of years, millions of people have walked this pilgrim path, a path that hundreds of people still travel each year. Through the narration of Bishop Donald Hying, a guide to the viewer, the movie provides the history of the Camino, offering theological reflection and engaging in conversations with pilgrims. The viewer walks the way from the movie getting a virtual glimpse of what the pilgrimage means to the people taking it and to the Catholic Church.
The cinematography is superb, captivating, and strikingly beautiful with sprawling pastoral vistas of rural Spain to majestic cathedral paintings. Aerial photography of the country, its land and its churches is frankly awe inspiring. The music is fitting and quite powerful. The movie does a good job helping viewers understand the meaning of pilgrimage from the perspective of the Catholic Church and explains the tradition regarding El Camino de Santiago well. Interviews with pilgrims could probably have been a bit more impactful with more careful choice editing, but they are nevertheless intriguing. There is also a mystical feel to the narration, which sometimes makes it somewhat unclear what really is being communicated. Overall, the documentary has high production values, but its effect could have been greater with more directed editing.
SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN has a strong Christian worldview with a decidedly Roman Catholic influence. Many of the narrator’s statements such as “faith is the true way of seeing, and, when we stand with Christ, we see the world rightly” are very biblical. However, other statements and assumptions of the movie and moviemakers are less so. The movie tells the story of St. James in some detail, from his calling by Jesus on the Sea of Galilee to his death. However, mixed into this narrative are accounts from much later medieval Catholic tradition asserting that James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John, traveled to Spain to preach the Gospel of Christ and that “his bones and relics” were later buried in Compostelana, Spain. The narrator states that James was encouraged to evangelize Spain in the 1st Century AD when he “received a vision of the Virgin Mary” telling him to persevere in his difficult task, even though this was 300 years before the Empress Pulcheria, initiated mariology. He goes on to say that the bones of the saint were lost for hundreds of years but were later recovered when a Spanish monk received a vision revealing where the saint’s bones were to be found (see the anonymous “Historia Compostelana”). Much of this account of the life and work of St. James seems to be based on late medieval mystical evidence. Beyond this, there are deep assumptions regarding the nature of the Church based in what the narrator calls “the culture of Catholicism” with which many Christians would take issue. Examples are the narrator’s blanket statements and implications that the Catholic Church is “our Mother,” the sacraments have “saving power,” the idea that pilgrimage imparts grace, and strong mariology with Mary referred to as “The Blessed Mother.” This last part, though a problem for Protestants and other Christians, doesn’t seem to go beyond veneration of Mary (and many other saints) into full-fledged worship of them. One pilgrim, though, sports a tattoo of the Virgin Mary on her arm.
Besides these concerns, SANTIAGO: THE CAMINO WITHIN presents no objectionable material. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises practiced worldview awareness and media wisdom for older children and adults.
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