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Amy Reviews “180 Degrees South”

This post originally appeared on my blog

One of the things I love most about going to the movies is that for a few hours I both lose myself and find myself.  I lose the drudgery of my “real self,” the self that has lists, tasks undone, piles, responsibilities and deadlines. I find, if I am lucky,my more evolved self: a deeper, more educated, contemplative, adventurous, romantic, clever self. In the case of the documentary 180° South, I found my outdoorsy, well- traveled environmentalist self.

180° South is much more than a travel film. It is an adventure film that educates. It is an informative documentary that thrills the senses and touches your heart. Although it is a personal story of one man’s trek to retrace the legendary journey of his heroes, it is also the universal story of mankind’s destruction of the planet.  It is a tale of the hopefulness of youth, the wisdom of age, of what is probable and what is possible, of tireless, visionary conservation and of the remarkable human spirit.

The people whose journey the film follows are likeable and engaging. They represent the very best the human race has to offer. They make you want to be a better person and lead a more responsible, charitable life.  The filmmakers seamlessly weave their story using classic clips of Yvon Chouinard (mountain climber and founder of Black Diamond and Patagonia) and Doug Tompkins’ (mountain climber, surfer and founder of North Face) 1968 expedition from California to Patagonia, magnificent footage of Jeff Johnson’s attempt to retrace the original journey (care of many talented cinematographers including Julia Roberts’ husband, Danny Moder) and hand held intimate shots of present day Chouinard and Tompkins among others.

The filmmakers poignantly contrast the splendor of some of earth’s most isolated and unspoiled natural wonders with the explicit exposure of man’s devastation, destruction and blatant disregard for these same finite natural resources and riches.

The charming handmade animation helps drive home the film’s environmental lessons. The end of the journey — and the film — reveals the meaning and relevance of the title. It is not a location as expected, but a state of mind. One we should all carry with us.


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