Film: The Forgiving Path


Filmmaker David Mathias was inspired to make a film showing just a few of the ways that walking makes people feel better. We think it’s beautiful

Last year filmmaker David Mathias got in touch to ask if we’d like a film promoting Slow Ways and walking in general. Of course we would! We think you’ll agree that the finished product, weaving poetry alongside three stories all filmed on Slow Ways around Bristol, is a lovely work of art. Sit back and allow yourself to be lulled by this truly beautiful piece of work. Thank you David!

What about Slow Ways inspired you to make The Forgiving Path?

Slow Ways’ ambitious proposals of creating a cultural shift in people’s hearts and minds regarding the landscape really excited me as an idea.

I contacted the team to offer a short film to help promote the project. They were keen, and gave me a very open brief, artistically. We agreed it should be focussed on strong personal stories shown in an authentic way.

How did you find the three contributors?

From the start, I always had in mind that three contributors would give a good variety. It was important to find people with strong and interesting stories that the audience could connect and relate to.

Hazel is my partner and the surprising thing was that neither of us expected her to be in the film originally. I wanted to test the idea of merging some footage along with the poem to see if it was going to work as an idea. We went to The Downs one afternoon and just casually walked around whilst I practiced filming and asking some questions as we went. The conversation just flowed to her talking about her accident which happened before we met and was a rough point in her life. I knew about it of course, but it wasn’t on our minds beforehand. When she mentioned it, that was a lightbulb moment of realising the intrinsic relationship and appreciation she had with walking from that time onwards.

“Hazel is my partner, and neither of us expected her to be in the film originally, but the conversation just flowed to her talking about her accident which was a rough point in her life”

I originally came across Sophie through social media concerning her group Bristol Steppin Sistas. The original plan was to focus on her individual walking story, but so much of that is based on encouraging other women that it became natural to extend the focus to the group. It was a pleasure joining one of their walks around Kings Weston House and seeing the huge enjoyment of the members, while helping break down barriers and anxieties.

Some of the conversations with the women have stayed with me, in particular one lady who had joined for the first time that afternoon and said she’d thought that a walk like that wasn’t open to her previously. Already she could see herself going on similar walks with just her daughter.

I was keeping my eyes open for a third person and this happened at FareShare where both Bertie and I volunteered. On one of our breaks, Bertie mentioned trying to go for a walk each morning. He was very open to the benefits for his spiritual and mental health, and honest in talking about his life and journey.

We’ve met as a group to do other walks since and aim to go each month to catch up and explore routes.

Is walking and connecting to nature important to you personally?

I love walking and am lucky to live near the wonderful Badock’s Wood – I regularly go for a circuit before beginning work. Heading up to Blaise Castle is also a favourite route and feels a real achievement, looking back towards Bristol. No walk is ever the same and there’s usually a nice surprise. I’d never seen a kingfisher but have now I’ve seen two flying by on Bristol river journeys in the autumn.

Walking is a natural antidote to staring at the computer screen and de-stressing during busy periods, and I share Bertie’s appreciation of smiling and connecting with passers-by.

Who is the poem in the film by?

I’ve known Penny for a number of years since we both had an art studio in the same community. She’s a poet and installation artist now based in Dorset. She has a passion for history and archaeology, a very enquiring mind which searches to understand different layers of the past and how that’s all connected.

“Penny’s poem adds a beautiful layer of pacing and imagination to the film and I love how it flows through the piece like a meandering river”

I’ve admired her poetry for a long time; it always has a candidness and rich observation. I knew I wanted to collaborate with her when I had this early notion of poetry linking the stories. We felt this could help transport people in their minds to potential imaginary routes and also to the fond memories of routes travelled from our childhoods. I think Penny’s poem adds a beautiful layer of pacing and imagination to the film and I love how it flows through the piece like a meandering river.

Since talking to David The Forgiving Path has been selected for the Adventure Uncovered film festival, and World Trails film festival in Skiathos, Greece, and Goodfest in Cornwall. Nice work!

David Mathias

David Mathias is a Bristol-based filmmaker. He started out taking footage and creating summary videos of actions by environmental groups. He was asked by the campaign group Bristol Airport Action Network (BAAN) to help edit a 35-minute documentary about stopping the expansion of Bristol Airport. Filming numerous interviews and editing a lot of historical information made this a very challenging project but he felt this was an important film as it showed what can be achieved when local people join together to make a difference. Through his documentaries, David seeks to give a voice to people who feel they don’t have one. Commercially, his focus is towards promoting independent businesses that have an ethical and sustainable ethos.
Slow Ways
Slow Ways is an initiative to create a national network of walking routes connecting all of Great Britain’s towns and cities as well as thousands of villages. It’s designed to make it easier for people to imagine, plan and go on walking journeys, walking further and for more purposes.