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 as a human being. Better yet, spend that time journeying into the wilds of this great planet, and you can’t help but have nature work on you, 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 and started driving south to Chile on a climbing, surfing, and skiing trip of epic proportions. And it happened again some four decades later, when camera-toting adventurer Jeff Johnson reimagined their journey and purposely retraced their path to Corcovado National Park, only this time swapping the bus for a sailboat. His film, 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless, is not only a celebration of both these journeys but also, more importantly, a cinematic love letter to the Mother Earth-minded evolution of consciousness earned along the way.
Directed by Ojai-born filmmaker Chris Malloy, 180° marks a hard-earned departure of sorts for the pro-surfer-turned-moviemaker. An undeniable heavyweight in the world of surf filmmaking (Thicker Than Water, September Sessions), Malloy had the road-trip-with-cameras-rolling thing down long before production on 180° began. But a purpose-driven documentary was uncharted territory for the 38-year-old goofy-foot surfer.
“This film, at least for me, was as much a learning experience as it was a film experience,” summed up Malloy. “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 is really a film about the place and the people and their stories.”
The film 180° South screens twice at UCSB’s Campbell Hall this Wednesday, January 12, at 7:30 and 9:15 p.m. Call 893-6565 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu for tickets and info.