180 (degrees) South is a recent documentary about an outdoorsman’s journey to replicate the 1968 voyage to Patagonia made by Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins. Pioneering mountaineers Chouinard and Tompkins sought to explore and put up a new route up Mt. Fitzroy in the far Antarctic Chilean wildlands of Tierra del Fuego. That adventure became the film Mountain of Storms, the inspiration for the trip which frames 180 (degrees) South.
It’s a documentary about adventure, but also at its core is a concern for the environment and the narrator’s developing awareness of how man’s modern lifestyle serves to usurp resources across the globe while simultaneously destroying the land from which those resources are generated. The film touches on the fragility of the ecosystems in Tierra del Fuego and how we, in general, are indifferent to and negligent of the global environment and its effects on the present and future of other cultures.
What this film doesn’t explain too well is who these journeymen are, and how they all came together. As it turns out, Patagonia produces a line of wetsuits, and the film director and some of the cast are in one way or another professionally linked to the company. The obsession to surf the frigid waters is to test Patagonia‘s line of wetsuits, so a bit of marketing therer. Chouinard and Tompkins are, of course, the founders of the Patagonia and North Face brands of outdoor clothing and equipment. Curiosity led me to discover more about the cast and crew, and that Julia Roberts’ husband was the film’s cinematographer.
Having once lived in Yosemite, the legends of (climbing) pioneers are familiar. I have no idea who this generation’s legends are, but it’s profound that Tompkins and Chouinard spend their millions buying up bits of “the last place on earth” and lobbying the government of Chile for the sake of preservation (see Conservacion Patagonica).
This film is worth a gander. It sports a great soundtrack and we could all use a push towards simplifying our lives and remembering that conservation begins with us.