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180 South

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

180° SOUTH: CONQUERORS OF THE USELESS follows Jeff Johnson as he retracesthe epic 1968 journey of his heroes Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia. Along the way he gets shipwrecked off Easter Island, surfs the longest wave of his life - and prepares himself for a rare ascent of Cerro Corcovado. Jeff's life takes a turn when he meets up in a rainy hut with Chouinard and Tompkins who, once driven purely by a love of climbing and surfing, now value above all the experience of raw nature - and have come to Patagonia to spend their fortunes to protect it.


Director Chris Malloy has struck gold with the powerful, multigenerational environmental documentary 180 Degrees South. This is a well-crafted film filled with a charismatic cast of outdoorsmen. It's artfully edited and has a pleasant soundtrack, making it one of the finest and most progressive documentaries on wilderness ethics yet. In this feature-length film, shot almost entirely on route to and in Patagonia, Malloy follows mountain climber Jeff Johnson as he attempts to live out an adventure modeled after his heroes, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, who traveled to Patagonia in 1968 and fell in love with the rugged country there. While the film opens with vintage footage of the Chouinard-Tompkins expedition rolling under Johnson's narration, one at first may expect 180 Degrees South to be a retread of their famous trek, which resulted in the formation of a nonprofit foundation dedicated to preserving South American wilderness. However, the viewer quickly learns that this film mainly stars Johnson, intimately narrating his thoughts about the good deeds Chouinard and Tompkins have done to promote wilderness ethics. Johnson also sincerely wonders who among new climbers and nature lovers have taken action to protect the lands they love. As Johnson sails his way down the Pacific Coast, he stops on Easter Island, which makes for gorgeous, scenic surfing footage. When he finally reaches his destination, Cerro Corcovado, Johnson meets Chouinard and Tompkins and their climbing begins. 180 Degrees South works as sheer travel documentary, but it is clearly a call to arms about protecting wild lands. Because Malloy treats this left-wing political stance delicately, commingling environmental message in with awesome climbing, sailing, and surfing footage, the film does not feel didactic. On the contrary, while it educates according to Chouinard and Tompkins's radical approach, its message feels mainstream enough to appeal to viewers who may not be converted before they see it. Because the director and the stars have taken this low-key tack, 180 Degrees South is all the more convincing as an educational tool. If you're craving inspiration or a call to action, this is your film. --Trinie Dalton

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tomkins
  • Directors: Chris Malloy
  • Format: Multiple Formats, AC-3, Closed-captioned, Color, Dolby, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 8, 2010
  • Run Time: 87 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (230 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003DNLLN6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,266 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "180 South" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

The photography was great as well as the story.
James J. Waldburger
It was an engaging documentary that helped me understand the culture and life in South America, and the importance of saving it's land.
Marcus Aflleje
Makes you want to be a better person when you watch this wonderful movie.
D. P. Brown

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Jens on September 4, 2011
The core conversation for me - the symbolism of walking towards the edge of a cliff. Rather than 'turning back' it's all about making a 180 degree turn and then 'stepping forward'. And this is only one of many jewels of wisdom and cinematography in a wonderfully honest and understated journey of a man who understands that nothing replaces the experience of going to beautiful and wild places. It grounds you and makes you really love a place - and then you feel the need to protect it. I had no idea what I would see when I randomly stumbled over this film, but I watched it twice that very evening only to watch it again.
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65 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Jeremiah Edwards on February 20, 2011
Format: DVD
3.5 Stars:

This film is the narrative of one man who is disaffected by the excesses of society and tries to simplify his life by casting himself into the unknown of adventure. With the goal of being the second person to climb Corcovado Volcano in Patagonia, he follows in the footsteps of several men who came before him in the 1960s. The message is a positive one of conservationism, and by just watching the protagonist trek around, you'll wish you were there getting lost with him. It is beautifully shot with an equally great soundtrack of subdued folk songs, including Mason Jennings' recent hit which is featured during the end credits.

But, the film's positive message is easily lost in the narcissism and vainglory of its characters. Through their own terrible self-narration, they come across as overly privileged, preachy, self-righteous, White bourgeois whiners. With their strong anti-corporate and anti-government bias, one is left only to feel that they are arrogant, hypocritical slackers who want the world out of their way so they can have a good time. The protagonist shows none of the modesty inherent to conservationism and spends much time preening around with his shirt off. There is much irony in how he criticizes everyone from city dwellers to video-game players, when it is the indentured condition of these groups which allows him the freedom to be a slacker and explore the natural world.

Also, the film's presentation of the collapse of Easter Island society is one-sided without nuance or context. The film argues that present day civilization is heading towards a similar collapse if we don't change our ways and live like the characters presented in the film.
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23 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Karl E. Weaver on June 14, 2010
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
This movie is a documentary, but it's a little hard to categorize. I think I'd really call it a POLEMIC- against Western capitalist culture, which is dominating most of the world at present (since even so-called "third world" countries are intent on emulating the successes of capitalism). How DO you describe a movie that encompasses sailing, surfing, mountain-climbing, retracing a climb made in 1968 by world-class climbers, lectures about the evils of dams and environmental destruction, a commercial plug for protecting Patagonia, the history of Easter Island, and philosophical musings and mumblings, all wrapped together and packaged with some of the most idiosyncratic music score I've ever listened to in a movie? [I don't know what to call this music-it's mostly one-voice, accompanied by guitar or other simple instrumentals-it sounds sort of folksy-rustic-country, but nothing that I've ever heard before. Sometimes it was irritating, and sometimes I really enjoyed it].

The subtitle, Conquerors of the Useless, refers principally to the whole activity of mountain-climbing. Risking your very life--for what? To stand for a few minutes or an hour on top of a piece of rock, then climb back down again. Does the world need this activity? Why do some people feel compelled to do it (or so many other extreme things that we seem compelled to do, for no clear gain) That becomes a metaphor for the whole question of what is "useful" and what is "useless"--for the world, for mankind as a species, for our survival.

The narrator solemnly asserts things like, "I'm beginning to think...(you know, differently about the world). I'm rather suspicious that he more or less had these same views before he even set out on his journey, and simply used the journey to reinforce them. But-no matter.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By David W. Kikuchi on February 18, 2013
Format: Amazon Instant Video
The film is - as other reviewers have pointed out - really well filmed, with good cinematographic values and some breathtaking transitions. Spoiler alert - there's a detour to Easter Island - and the way that the narrator takes it in stride really immersed me in the openness of possibility, of just letting yourself drift to new places. The climbing and the surfing shots are awesome, no one can argue that.

Stop reading now if cool images are all you want to get out of this video.

I have to admit I couldn't deal with the manipulative, simpleminded eco-preaching or the lack of depth that the characters are drawn in. The narrator is a simple-hearted drifter, his surfer girl hookup is a feminist pioneer in surfing with a Polynesian look, the Chilean fisherman they meet in Patagonia is a simple man with a simple life whose coastline is threatened by a papermill. Everything is too slick, too corporate; the coolness and friendliness are too moderated. Yvon Chouinard also seemed to really want an excuse to say that he'd met Jared Diamond with the inclusion of the whole Easter Island collapse spiel. A documentary about dirtbag drifting is not going to have any serious commentary on the direction of human society unless it's written by Hunter S. Thompson. As someone who's spent a good bit of my life researching the natural world, it's sort of infuriating to hear such banal tripe, as though all we have to do to live forever as a people is stop being materialistic (read: buy TNF and Patagonia, not Nike and Levi's) and buy local, whatever that means these days. I have a lot of sympathy for harnessing human greed to fund conservation, but not the concomitant propaganda.
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