New film Camino shops "enlightened" prejudice.
By Catherine Gallo Martinez
The story of Camino is inspired by the life and death of Alexia
Gonzalez Barros – a 14 year old Spanish girl, whose ‘exemplary’ death
from cancer initiated her current beatification as an model of a soul
that achieved spiritual holiness by fulfilling God’s will in the
hardest times of her life. The character Camino, in Fesser’s Spanish
speaking film, is portrayed as a charming young teenage girl whose
platonic love with a boy named ‘Cuco’ sustains her spiritually and
gives her hope when she becomes the victim of her mother’s fanaticism
with Camino’s terminal illness as a means of sanctification for her
Camino lives in a world – of dreams, where she is Cinderella and the
boy she loves is the prince. Showing the imaginary mind of Camino, the
film portrays magnificently the doubts and hopes of a young teenage
girl who falls in love for the first time.
Yet it is this story of love that betrays the film’s integrity in
relation to the protagonist’s spiritual experience during her terminal
We are introduced to a young 11 year old girl who is inclined to the
supernatural love of God and prayer; however, Fesser fails to mature
this spiritual essence of Camino’s character as Cuco becomes the centre
of Camino’s interior happiness and peace, placing as secondary the
supernatural experience she encounters with God in her spiritual battle
on her death bed, which fails to bring to light the true virtue of
Alexia Gonzalez Barrios.
The film had no doubt some spiritual context, succeeding in showing the
superior maturity and spiritual insight of Camino in comparison to her
school mates. There were, alongside this spiritual awareness, extreme
tenderness and heart-breaking portrayals of Camino’s physical and
emotional suffering of an illness that took away the young life of the
Crucial to the storyline was the phenomenon of ‘penance’, which the
film didn’t concede to balance on a fair objective view – it openly
distorted the virtue of penance as a cruel, imposed idiosyncrasy from
Gloria to her daughter, making Camino’s selfless acceptance to God’s
will a mere fabrication of the fanatical guidance from her Mother who
also repressed Camino’s emotional state during her illness and imposed
on her to ‘give up’ her life for God. Fesser’s Camino has Gloria as
the real antagonist of the film, construing that the real ‘cross’
Camino has to carry is her mother’s constant delusions of her
daughter’s suffering and obligation of penance.
The filmmakers present Opus Dei in similar light of a religious cult
through the representation of Camino’s older sister, Nuria – an Opus
Dei young member who is restricted, bounded and brainwashed by her
Supervisor, and who resolves to become a distant and cold figure when
Camino and her family needed her most.
The filmmakers have conspired to make Camino out as the victim of her
mother’s religious ideas, and her mother as a victim of the Catholic
Church beliefs: one of the most grabbing ending scenes has a Priest
wanting to take a picture of Camino dead in her hospital bed as part of
evidence for a request to beatification, disregarding any human and
emotional respect for the dead, and the mother bursting into tears as
she holds her dead daughter in her arms.
The film begins with a prayer dialogue between Camino and her mother,
and at the end of the film this same ‘prayer’ is exposed as being a
mere love request from Camino to Cuco – hence we are left wondering
whether Fesser has created this film in order to openly challenge
against Alexia Gonzalez Barros’ ‘sanctity’. After a harsh ordeal with
cancer Camino dies dreaming of Cuco, surrounded by applause and
theatrical music – where this film had the potential to be a
magnificent inspirational example for today’s youth to find hope and
holiness through God in one’s hardest moments, it settled for a
touching story about a dying teenage girl in Pamplona.
Catherine Gallo Martinez is a media and youth ministry worker for Perth’s Catholic Youth Ministry.