A 3000 Mile Road Trip en route to Mecca
Camino a la Paz (Road to La Paz) tells the unexpected story of a hot-headed, inconsiderate taxi driver who makes a 3000 mile road trip across Argentina and Bolivia for an elderly Muslim man to make his way to Mecca. On the way is his own spiritual journey finding meaning and faith.
Moving into a new apartment with his wife, Sebastian is annoyed by constant misdirected calls asking for a taxi. Eventually, since he needs a job, he decides to start driving clients around the city in the Peugeot 505 he inherited from his father. He is quick-tempered, irresponsible and unthinking, encouraging the schoolchildren he drives in the morning to try smoking and refusing not to smoke in the car when the elderly Jalil asks him not to.
Jalil is an aged Muslim man who cannot travel by air due to health problems. After several trips being driven around Buenos Aires by Sebastian, and despite frequently getting on each other’s nerves, he asks him to take him on a 3000 mile journey to visit his brother Nazim in La Paz in Bolivia. Sebastian initially refuses the unusual request, dismissing it as bordering on ridiculous, but is later persuaded to agree for financial reasons.
As they set out on the route they start to annoy each other just as they had on previous occasions, with the tension between them leading to plenty of banter and comedic moments. Points of irritation between them include smoking or eating garlic in the car when the other tells them not to, running a portable dialysis machine all night in their shared hotel room, disagreeing on what music to play in the car and extra stops due to Jalil’s weak bladder and for him to perform the prayer. Finally, after picking up an injured dog on the way and an extra passenger without first consulting him, Sebastian is so annoyed he threatens to cancel the whole trip.
En Route to Mecca
It emerges on the trip that Jalil’s intention is not just to visit his brother, who he says is older and blinder than he is, but to travel on with him by taxi to Lima in Peru, and then to take a three week long journey by boat on the way to Mecca. Sebastian is surprised by the scale of Jalil’s ambitious plans and gains a new respect for him and his resolve. On the way they stop to visit a Sufi Halveti Jerrahi group who are friends of Jalil’s. Sebastian finds himself in the midst of a Sufi gathering with prayers, dhikr and spiritual advice being given, which touches something deeper in him despite himself, so that he soon finds himself enthusiastically taking part in the ceremony.
After this we see them getting along better, with Sebastian asking “Do you want me to change the music?” and Jalil humorously replying – “No, thanks, I’m starting to like it.” From being irritated by everything Jalil does he begins to genuinely care about him, and they develop a close bond. A series of disasters on their way to La Paz mean that more materialistic concerns such as money and his attachment to his car fade into the background as they do everything in their power to reach their destination and ensure that Jalil’s medical needs are met.
Filmed in Argentina and Bolivia, Camino a La Paz opened the Argentine Film Festival in London in 2015. Rodrigo De la Serna, who played Sebastian, is known for his Bafta nominated role as a companion of Che Guevara in The Motorcycle Diaries. For Ernesto Suarez, who played Jalil, the film was his screen debut at the age of 75, although he had a distinguished career as a theatre actor. The storyline is based on director Francisco Varone’s own experiences. After the economic crisis in Argentina in 2001, an unemployed friend of his decided to become an illegal taxi driver after receiving misdirected calls asking for taxis; and a few years later Varone experienced a Sufi ceremony first-hand when he was invited to a gathering in Argentina by a friend who had converted to Sufism.
Camino a La Paz (Road to La Paz) is a heart-warming tale of an unlikely friendship and a journey towards a deeper meaning in life. It shows a deep bond develop between the main protagonists on their 3000 mile journey across South America, despite their differences. To this heart-warming story, the scenes set in a Sufi ceremony, filmed in a real gathering, add a powerful spiritual element.