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180 South

4.5 out of 5 stars 287 customer reviews

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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.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    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 (287 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003DNLLN6
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,147 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "180 South" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I watch this film over and over. Probably once or twice a month at least. After about a year, I'm happy to say I quit my job to go after the things that are really important to me. I'm not able to take six months to go to Patagonia right now, but this film inspires me to live in the moment, and to charge hard at the things that are important.

There's a lot of themes packed in there, and every time I watch I get a different message. The most important message to me is that on the surface, climbing and surfing and sailing and traveling might be "useless" activities that in and of themselves don't contribute anything to the world - but they make us better people, and focus our attention on our place in the world and the simultaneous tiny footprint we have as individuals as well as our collective enormous impact as a species.

I love this film.
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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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Format: Amazon Video
Put me in the category of entertained by the film. There are surprising views in nearly every frame, and this is about adventures and personal quests. That it is a documentary is a bonus here - you do gain some insight about the challenge of the journey - and the soundtrack is great (I bought e-tracks of some of the tunes).

Call me jaded, but at times the whole impression I was taking away from the experience was to ask myself "how do you get to the place where you can afford such an extravagant trip and so much time off to do it?" I was coming to terms with this just being some kind of boondoggle, characterized by rampant consumerism, by the end of the film.

And in the end that's what compromised the beautiful scenic shots of Easter Island and Patagonia for me. I was entertained and enjoyed watching, but at the same time, there were those nagging and annoying second thoughts about how really altruistic this kind of tourism is.
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