180 Degrees South: Like Browsing the Patagonia Catalog, Listening to Jack Johnson

If you enjoy flipping through the Patagonia catalog, longing to visit the lovely, distant locales depicted therein (and maybe buy some overpriced fleece sweaters, too), this is your movie. Part infomercial, part adventure-travel porn, and part message movie, 180 Degrees South is very much a company-sponsored product that celebrates its founder, Yvon Chouinard, and his values. But here in outdoorsy Seattle, most of us already share those values. So if you can get past the eco-sermonizing ("live simply with the land") and Jack Johnson tunes, the movie is a gorgeous distillation of a six-month voyage by narrator Jeff Johnson (no relation). He sails from California to Chilean Patagonia on a somewhat parallel route to that taken in 1968 by Chouinard and buddies including Doug Tompkins, who's now trying to preserve swaths of Chile as parkland. The film frankly promotes that cause, and native efforts to stop hydroelectric dams in that country. Jared Diamond's Collapse is also cited, especially after a surfing visit to Easter Island, famously decimated by overpopulation and deforestation. If Chouinard is the self-contented curmudgeon, and North Face founder Tompkins the quieter philanthropist, their views are still well within mainstream environmentalism: Consume less and don't overtax the environment. As vanity productions go, 180 Degrees South is an agreeable mix of campfire philosophy and beautiful scenery. And if you can't afford such a trip, there are always the fleece sweaters. 

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