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180° SOUTH is powerful

Saw a powerful and thought-provoking film today on NetFlix called 180° SOUTH by Jeff Johnson which is a film record of his journey to Patagonia in the footsteps of his heros Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia, Inc. the outdoor clothing company) and Doug Tompkins (founder of The North Face and co-founder of ESPRIT).


Environmentally-aware, these guys are self-described "dirt bags" who would spend most of their time in the sixties hiking, surfing, camping, and mountain climbing in the great wilderness areas of the west and eventually built businesses around what they loved to do. Their successes eventually allowed them the resources to help create and preserve huge tracks of land in South America even as the countries there were building dams and paper pulp mills and power plants to fuel their fledgling economies. Jeff's trip (by boat) gets delayed when they shipwreck and are forced to detour to Easter Island (Rapa Nui) to re-mast. The lesson of the deforestation of Easter Island by islanders driven in competition to build ever larger status Moai is not lost on the film-maker (there is still disagreement about this in the scientific community).

The film's name comes from a comment that if progress up a mountain brings you to a cliff does it make sense to march into the chasm when you could instead turn 180 degrees around and take a step forward? Beautiful scenery, interesting characters, important social issues, awesome soundtrack largely by Ugly Casanova (Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse) and James Mercer, though the haunting melody sung by Mahoke, a girl Jeff meets on Easter Island and decides to take the journey with him may rank as my favorite song in the film.