Diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, Phil wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to fulfill his dream of walking El Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage across Spain to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in Galicia. For a man living as far away as Vashon, Washington, the trip seemed difficult enough; bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments made it nearly impossible. In the short documentary film, Phil’s Camino, co-directors Annie O’Neil and Jessica Lewis chronicle one man’s journey to live life against the odds.
The film opens in Spain, with Phil attempting his trek, and that’s initially what O’Neil and Lewis figured would be the crux of the film. They blocked out a month to shoot overseas. “We started off wanting to capture this unthinkable dream,” says Lewis, but upon meeting Phil and hearing his backstory, the filmmakers quickly arranged to visit Phil in Vashon for six days of nonstop shooting.
Grounded by his chemo and unsure if he would ever make it to Spain, Phil had constructed his own Camino – a .88-kilometer loop around his ten-acre property that he walked multiple times a day. After every loop, Phil would mark where he would be on the actual Camino in Spain. The whole trip ended up taking 909 laps, but Phil wasn’t giving up.
“One thing we really wanted to capture was living fully in the face of death,” says Todd Pinckney, editor and director of photography on Phil’s Camino. Phil may be facing cancer himself, but the universality of death and his reaction to it transcends that particular. “He had this idea and he didn’t let his diagnosis define who he was.”
Enjoying its Southeastern premiere this past week at the Sarasota Film Festival, Phil’s Camino marches on to the Nashville Film Festival, the Myrtle Beach Film Festival and then the Julien Dubuque Festival.
Pictured: Todd Pinckney and Jessica Lewis. Photo by Wyatt Kostygan.