The Documentary Short ‘Phil’s Camino’ SXSW 2016 - Review

The documentary short ‘Phil’s Camino’ had its world premiere during SXSW 2016 and was part of the shorts competition program.  The short has a length of 27:45 and tells the story about the free spirited Phil, a man living with Stage 4 cancer and dreaming of walking the 500 mile spiritual pilgrimage “Camino de Santiago” across Spain.  Unable to make the trip, he does the next best thing: He builds a camino in the forest behind his house, starts to walk,  and traces his progress on a map.  Phil's journey is one of hope, acceptance, and freedom, and is sure to inspire anyone who has ever dreamed of doing something that sounded impossible. Upon ‘reaching’ Santiago de Compostela  without ever leaving his backyard, Phil gets a clean scan and his doctors grant him a 'chemo holiday', or permission to miss one chemo treatment.  He now has 28 days to go and walk the ancient route in Spain.  Along the way he realizes his true pilgrimage is the one he travels within.

In attendance during SXSW festival were directors Annie O’Neil, Jessica Lewis, Executive Producer Doug Blush, Director of Photography/Editor Todd Pinckney, Co-Producer Rebecca Goldstein, Associate Producers Marc & Lorraine Randolph and Karin Litzmann.



Documentary Short ‘Phil’s Camino’ Review

The “Camino” (path) of this film starts and ends with the phrase “come walk with me.”  Phil is a veteran, husband, father, outdoorsman, and Catholic who has Stage IV cancer.  He is also a dreamer and for years he had the desire to walk the 500-mile ancient pilgrimage route across Spain's “El Camino de Santiago.”  He crafted his own path through the woods on his own land, a ten acre plot on Vashon Island, Seattle, because he was unavailable to travel due to his weekly chemo treatments. He created his own daily routine of walking the path (El Camino) where he found meaning while living and recovering from cancer.  By walking everyday he learned to fight the cancer, embrace his faith, and becomes more appreciative of the present moment as he faces the adversity of his illness.

Before traveling to the real “Camino Santiago”  Phil always has the support of his family and friends and they even brought Spain to his own land by drinking wine from Spain and eating tapas.   He walks 909 laps from December to May as he opens up the camino with his family on his property.  David Zucker, Phil's cancer rehabilitation physician finally gives him the chance to finally accomplish his dream of walking "The Camino Santiago" during 28 days in Spain.  The actual  journey for Phil becomes a reconciliation with God, family, and all the important things in his life, with or without a cure.  The path in Santiago becomes a journey of faith and reassurance that everything is going to be OK.

The film is indeed a real journey, but more as an inner journey.  As a viewer you will  feel transported in the path of your own life with Phil.  The emotional journey the viewer takes by watching the short documentary has a powerful and influential faith in healing.  The director and producer Annie O’Neil was immediately captured by the way Phil lives with a transcending peace and quiet tenacity in the face of death.  She sensed that his story was one that would inspire others to live a journey of meaning and gratitude and she was absolutely right with Phil’s authentic story.  The story can change the point of view of people facing cancer or people living with someone with cancer. Cancer isn’t always a death sentence; on the contrary, it pushes people to live and appreciate each moment while recovering or fighting cancer.  Cancer pushes someone’s life to stay strong and get stronger as the only choice.


Phil walks for his physical health and reassures his faith every single day of his journey and lives each day whatever the result may be.  Phil dreams about walking “Camino Santiago” in Spain.  The little string between life and death could be terrifying for anybody, but Phil keeps track of his journey while walking his own mental camino behind his house as an analogy of “The Camino Santiago” and embraces the real meaning the pilgrimage.  Pilgrimage is a meaningful journey to a sacred place.  It gives the pilgrims the chance to walk through those issues that we have inside our minds, whatever they might be. Pilgrimage can also be a highly social activity that allows an opportunity to enjoy the company of others we meet on the road.  It’s an opening to re-energize mentally, physically, and spiritually.  It can be a life-changing time for many people and a time of letting go of the old to let the new come in.  Pilgrimage helps to illuminate the journey of life by helping to focus on ‘what really matters’ and to rediscover the joy of giving and generosity.

The confrontation with death is one of the most powerful experiences. When someone knows their life might be over soon it can be the time to prioritize life's values and build a character that acknowledges each moment as a treasure.  Life is a gift and appreciating each moment belongs to you!

Follow Yenis Monterrey (Writer) @Foxactress

Follow LA Splash Magazine @SplashMagWW

Follow Phil's Camino on Twitter @philscamino

Follow Phil's Camino on Facebook

Photos by John Gutierrez Photography 

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