Young at Heart Film Festival Review: Looking for Infinity: El Camino

A documentary exploring the popular pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela where the Apostle St James, patron Saint of Spain, is supposedly buried.

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Looking for Infinity is a unique 60-minute documentary for several reasons, not least being because it doesn’t pick a side. It presents its topic through interviews and footage of those who have experienced it and leaves it to them to tell the story.

There’s no narration to sway opinion or inject the film-maker’s interpretation. For the most part, the interviewees themselves don’t appear on screen either, at least, not while they’re talking, so their words cannot be interpreted through facial expressions or body language. Their words are presented alone for the listener to interpret themselves.

What’s most impressive is the two-man crew shot the film without a budget over more than a year, using donations of pilgrims to complete the project.

The Camino de Santiago is an 800km (approx) pilgrimage through Spain that is followed on foot by thousands of religious people each year who are seeking enlightenment or penance. The pilgrimage leads to Santiago de Compostela where the Apostle St James, patron Saint of Spain, is supposedly buried.

Spanish, French and English speaking pilgrims reflect on their journey or their reasons for embarking on it, their voices accompanied by lots of panning or moving shots through the Spanish countryside or empty town streets. Long-held shots of silent people looking back at the camera creates a personable and intimate connection with the storytellers who share intimate motivations that led them to take this gruelling pilgrimage.

While Director Aaron C Leaman and cinematographer Daniel Edwards luxuriate in the escape from daily life that the pilgrimage offers, the original music score by Richard Melkonian is a potent character in the storytelling, using wonderfully peaceful soundscapes of mediative drumming, chiming bells, and reflective instrumentations.

Leaman seems to deliberately disassociate the film from societal norms however, and this can be disconcerting at times. For example, each scene has its own background sound, whether it be birds or music, and that sound cuts out suddenly when the next scene starts. Normally this would seem to be an amateur edit but Leaman’s continuity suggests that he’s deliberately challenging what may be considered the norm.

Even the closing titles are so ridiculously slow to scroll up the screen that they seem to be making a final point about the relaxed, healthy state of mind that can be found when pilgrims complete the journey.

Looking for Infinity: El Camino is visually beautiful, aurally interesting, and uniquely presented. It’s a documentary that can sound tedious when described but is, in fact, intriguing and inspiring.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Rating out of 10:  8

Looking for Infinity: El Camino will screen on 10 and 15 April for the Young at Heart Film Festival, running 10-16 April 2017 exclusively at the Palace Nova Eastend Cinemas.

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