David Alexanian Shows ‘The Way’ with Estevez And Sheen


From left, Sonja Magdevski, Martin Sheen, Emilio Estevez and David Alexanian at the Chicago International Film Festival in August

By Florence Avakian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

NEW YORK — “TheWay,” a new, heart-warming family film, is written and directed by Emilio Estevez, and produced by David Alexanian and his company, Elixir Films. Now showing in most theaters from coast to coast, the film is the story of a life-changing trip bonding a father and his son, and emphasizes the difference between the life we live, and the life we choose. It stars Estevez’ own father, Martin Sheen, whose California life is transformed during a trek.

When Sheen, a well-to-do ophthalmologist, hears that his only son (played by Estevez) has died during a storm in the Pyrenees while hiking along the famed Way of St. James, also known as the Camino de Santiago, he flies to France. To better understand himself and his bohemian son from whom he has been estranged, and to complete his son’s journey, he decides to make the pilgrimage himself, a trek of hundreds of miles from France to Spain.

Using his son’s gear, he starts out picking up a motley group of trekkers, including an overweight Dutchman (Yorick van Wageningen), a surly chain-smoking Canadian (Deborah Kara Unger), and an Irish author (James Nesbitt) suffering from writer’s block, all of whom hope to find a way out of their personal dilemmas. Along the way, Sheen quietly scatters his son’s ashes.

Though there isn’t much insight on how the grouchy Sheen is changed by the odyssey, the film does afford some hints at healing through arguments as well as friendship with his teammates (all fine actors) and hilarious moments with the local villagers on the journey, especially an innkeeper who alone puts on a side-splitting show acting out a conversation between a man and a woman.

Probably the most impressive parts of the film portray the history, culture and picturesque panorama of the countryside, Sheen’s moving, understated performance and the character development of the other three lead actors. There is also the spiritual element, especially when the four pilgrims finally reach their destination at the Spanish cathedral where St. James is reputed to be buried.

Producer Alexanian grew up in Pennsylvania and has been involved with film and theater production for more than 10 years. He is especially fascinated with subjects of geographical and inspirational journeys. He co-founded Elixir Films with his sister, Alexis Alexanian.

His association with “The Way” started in 2008 when writer and director Estevez asked him to produce it after attending Alexanian’s 2007 production of “Long Way Down.” Both Estevez and Alexanian flew to Spain and journeyed on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela ancient trek. Along the way they hired crew and cast from the local population, and worked on the production.

However, “TheWay” was not the first of Alexanian’s films. In 2001, he filmed Eric Bogosian’s one- man show, “Wake Up and Smell the Coffee,” for the Independent Film Channel. He has also filmed “The Good Thief” by Conor McPherson at a run in a Los Angeles theatre, and the 2003 production of “Where the Red Fern Grows.” This was followed in 2004 with “Long Way Round,” which he directed and produced. It was the 20,000-mile motorcycle journey of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman from London to New York through Europe, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Siberia, far eastern Russian and North America.

He recalls that his mother was terrified of motorcycles, when he was growing up. “I used to sneak out to ride dirt bikes against her stern warnings,” he says. Working with his sister, Alexis, he became the head of Elixir Films, and has instilled that love of motorcycles into films, such as “Long Way Round” and “Long Way Down” which he produced in 2007.

“Long Way Down” details a ride from the Northern tip of Scotland, down through Europe, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and ending in South Africa, covering virtually the whole African continent.

Following the completion of the $5-million production of “The Way,” Alexanian again flew to South Africa and directed and produced a documentary film with the sons of the legendary singer Bob Marley, when they traveled across the country during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The film depicted them playing with local musicians and organizing a charity concert in Soweto which promoted Marley’s legacy of African Unity. Titled “Marley Africa Roadtrip,” a six-part series which was completed in August, the documentary will be aired in November.