Conquerors of the Useless No More
180° South Climbs, Surfs, and Road-Trips to Environmental Redemption
Tuesday, February 9, 2010
No matter who you are or how much you like to think you have things figured out, spend six months on the road beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone and you’re guaranteed to grow to as a human being. Better yet, spend that time journeying into the wilds of this great planet and you cannot help but have nature work on you — the rhythmic and raw dance of sunrises, sunsets, and everything in between rearranging your internal totem of life priorities into a much simpler order.
Such was the experience in 1968 when Yvon Chouinard, the Buddha-like founder of the Patagonia clothing company, and his mountaineering buddy Doug Tompkins loaded up a VW bus in California and started driving south to Chile on a climbing, surfing, and skiing road trip of epic proportions. And it happened again some four decades later, when camera toting adventurer Jeff Johnson re-imagined their journey and purposely retraced their path to Cerro Corcovado National Park, only this time swapping the V-dub for a sailboat. The film 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless — which has its world premier this Wednesday, February 10, at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival — is not only a simultaneous celebration of both these journeys but, more importantly, succeeds as a cinematic love poem to the Mother Earth-minded evolution of consciousness earned along the way.
Directed by Ojai-born and Gaviota-based filmmaker Chris Malloy, 180° marks a hard-earned departure of sorts for the once-upon-a-time pro surfer turned movie maker. An undeniable heavyweight in the world of surf filmmaking (Thicker than Water, Shelter, and September Sessions to name a few), Malloy had the road trip adventure thing with cameras rolling down pretty good long before production on 180° began. But a purpose-driven documentary — which 180° very much is — was uncharted territory for the 38 years-young goofy foot.
“This film, at least for me, was as much a learning experience as it was a film experience.” summed up Malloy late last week in between surf and chanterelle harvesting expeditions along the Central Coast. “With surf movies, you don’t really have to tell a story or even put names on a screen. You just get a crew together, follow hunches, pick out some spots, and go for it….This was quite different. This was a long arduous run. It was a lot to pull together.”