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Common Roads – Pilgrimage and backpacking in the 21st Century

Original title Common Roads – Pilgrimage and backpacking in the 21st Century


Whereas the label of «pilgrim» is still mostly associated with devout persons leaving home for purely religious motives, young people taking to the road as «backpackers» are generally perceived as pleasure seeking globetrotters. Questioning these stereotypes, anthropologist and filmmaker Tommi Mendel followed one young woman along the Way of St. James through France and Spain and another one along backpacking-routes through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. Documenting their experiences and encounters over a period of three years, this film reveals intriguing parallels on various levels between what at first glance appear as two different ways of travelling. COMMON ROADS is Tommi Mendel’s PhD-thesis at the University of Zurich and was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Author/s Tommi Mendel

Tommi was born 1970 in Lucerne, Switzerland. He studied Social and Cultural Anthropology, Religious Studies and History at the University of Zurich with the focus on Visual Anthropology. His MA-thesis is the ethnographic documentary film ARUKIHENRO – WALKING PILGRIMS (2006) and his PhD-thesis is the ethnographic documentary film COMMON ROADS – PILGRIMAGE AND BACKPACKING IN THE 21st CENTURY (2013). His ethnographic documentary BUNONG’S BIRTH PRACTICES BETWEEN TRADITION AND CHANGE (2010) won several prizes at international film festivals. Tommi is a board member of the Audio-visual Commission of the Swiss Ethnological Society and an independent filmmaker.

Research Tommi Mendel
Photography Tommi Mendel
Sound Tommi Mendel
Editing Tommi Mendel