‘Why We Walk’ director Bishop to present mindset-changing documentary film

Mariia Novoselia
Staff writer

Little did a recent Ohio University graduate know that a shift as a Lyft driver would one day lead to him making his first documentary.

Eric Bishop, director of “Why We Walk,” will present the movie at 7 p.m. tonight in the Chautauqua Cinema. Free with a Traditional Gate Pass and presented as a Meet the Filmmaker event with the Chautauqua Climate Change Initiative, the screening will be followed by a panel discussion with Bishop and Tyran Toure Marshall, one of the three central characters.  

The film, Bishop said, tells the story of three men – all with different backgrounds – as they embark on a “pilgrimage” of roughly 60 miles across the eastern United States. Marshall is local to Cincinnati. Together with Vanny Mwamba, an immigrant from the Congo, and Abdi Cheik, a refugee from Ethiopia, the three “urban hikers” set out on a journey from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, to Washington, D.C., with Bishop along for the journey.

“The hike lasted about four days, but it changed our lives. It wasn’t a massive hike, but I think what it did was demonstrate that you don’t need to hike the Appalachian Trail,” Bishop said. “You can just go on a weekend trip or a long weekend trip with some of your friends, and it can change you.” 

The filmmaking process, he said, made him reflect on his spiritual life, teaching him the importance of noticing “moments of significant synchronicity” and seizing opportunities.

“Say ‘yes’ to the universe and say ‘yes’ to the journey because even if it’s daunting, the journey will provide some magic along the way,” he said. 

Bishop said he was working as a Lyft driver when he met Mwamba for the first time. 

“We could have just ignored each other, but we struck up a conversation, and that’s how we met,” Bishop said. “(It was) a very … serendipitous moment, and we were vibing and had a great conversation. We decided to get coffee, and he introduced me to this concept of the urban hikers – this, at that time, super grassroots, low-key organization.”

Since the coincidental encounter and filming the hiking trip, “Why We Walk” has won several awards, including best feature at the 2022 Bare Bones Music & Documentary Festival, 2022 Something Wicked DocuFest and 2022 Trails Film.

“Why We Walk,” Bishop said, is community-centered. Even though the three main characters and Bishop have different cultural and ethnic identities, he said they “all have the same ethos and the same kind of commonality.”

“It’s not about race, it’s not about the things that divide us,” Bishop said. “It’s really about this sort of archetypal, humanity-driven story that I think, hopefully, anyone can relate to. … The journey that the guys go through together as individuals is all about showcasing that anybody can go walking and get benefits from it.”

He said he feels there is a need for “inspiring and nutritional” content because of “negativity in the world and a lot of division.” Bishop said he hopes the film helps people realize that they have more in common than otherwise and inspires them to go for a walk, gaining physical and mental health benefits.

The inspiration for the movie, Bishop said, came from the hikers’ “willingness to work together,” their trust in him, as a documentary filmmaker, and “the potency of the film.” 

“I think it’s really interesting to see this kind of classic hero’s journey archetype told through a contemporary lens,” he said. 

Lastly, Bishop said community played a paramount role in the narrative of the film.

“The story follows not one person, but a collective,” he said. “(The hikers) are all about community and … bringing people together through the medium of walking.”

Additionally, that cooperative effort is what made the movie possible, Bishop said.

In addition to a $5,000 donation from a nonprofit sponsor, the project raised $38,000 through a crowdfunding platform, which helped “garner and create a community” that soon turned into fans of the movie.

Being “perhaps an introverted individual,” Bishop said having to reach out to people got him out of his shell, but also helped him “distill the essence” of “Why We Walk.”

Even though Bishop is from Ohio, he said, he is no stranger to Chautauqua, having done a lot of post-production and editing of the film on the grounds of the Institution, which he described as “a safe haven” and “a place of peace and refuge from the city.”

Creating “Why We Walk,” Bishop’s first documentary, taught him many lessons. 

“I learned how to tell a story, how to pitch to people and how to do whatever you have to do in order to get your vision for a project to come to fruition,” he said. 

The movie, Bishop said, made him a daily walker – a routine he “adopted religiously” with plans to continue walking for the rest of his life. He said it helps him stay in touch with nature, get inspired and refresh his thoughts.


The author Mariia Novoselia

Mariia Novoselia is a senior at Western Kentucky University studying journalism with a minor in political science. Born and raised in Odesa, Ukraine, she previously attended Odesa I. I. Mechnikov National University. She has experience writing for student publications and interning at a local newspaper in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Summer 2023 will be her first season on the grounds of Chautauqua, where she will be covering environmental issues. Mariia is also a music enthusiast, and when not writing, she enjoys singing and playing the guitar.