Tuesday, February 16, 2010

180 South - a film review

"These mountain climbing corporate executives that scale Mount Everest in a package deal... they go up the mountain as assholes, and they come back down as assholes." - Yvon Chouinard in "180 South"

Last week I had the honor of attending the world premiere of "180 South" - a new film by surfing filmmaker Chris Malloy and his collective at Woodshed Films. "180" screened at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. My friend Chris "Kongrio Kolorado" Evans and I did some consulting and writing for the film so we got a much-desired ticket into the sold out Arlington Theater (capacity 2,000 people) to see the film (It was the best-selling film of the entire festival). Somehow Kongrio got us in via the red carpet, escorted by a woman with a walkie-talkie past the paparazzi and the hundreds of people lining up. I thought everyone gets in that way? Kongrio has done this before.

"180 South" documents the adventures of surfer and climber Jeff Johnson following the epic 1968 journey of Yvon Chouinard and Douglas Tompkins as they drive, mountain climb and surf their way to Chilean Patagonia. Jeff encounters big waves, snowy mountains, a dangerous ocean crossing, a beautiful Polynesian girl, pulp mills, cowboys and dams on his way to climb in Patagonia (where he gets some mysto surf, too).

It's refreshing to see director Chris Malloy evolve his art. In this film he no longer focuses on the professional surfer "experience" of perfect waves, melodious sounds, happy times and colorful destinations. There is some strumming of guitars at campfires in the wild. But this film is not "surf porn" and I thank the heavens for that! The soundtrack is as stellar as you'd expect from Woodshed Films. The Chile story is familiar, passionate and compelling. They closely document our Save The Waves program in Chile. The cinematography is epic. The surfing is good, but the waves never get perfect nor are the surfers shredding (besides Keith Malloy) - and that's a shot of authenticity for the whole project.

A friend thought the environmental message of "180 South" was a bit too much, but who am I to judge? I specialize in making preachy environmental films, and "180 South" is much less preachy than my stuff. And much better. As is often the problem with documentaries, this film is just a bit too long - once again the mantra of "short and sweet" is forgotten. But the interviews with Yvon and Doug are vastly entertaining and provide an engaging thread that binds the story. Yvon steals the show with his one-liner soundbyte comments such as the one above about corporate executives. There are many more, and he had the packed Arlington Theater in laughter.

Sitting next to me during the film screening was Yvon's wife Malinda, a cofounder of Patagonia clothing, and as the theater erupted in more applause after a piece of golden wisdom from Yvon she leaned over to me and said: "He always manages to reach a new customer!" Go see this film when it's out. It's well-worth the price of admission and it shares great wisdom from legendary characters that the world knows little about. Save The Waves might help out with a couple of premieres in SF and/or Chile, so stay tuned.

Tour and premiere dates are coming soon at www.180South.com.

Full disclosure: I assisted Chris Malloy, the director of this film, on "Chilean consulting" for 180 South: written content, facts & film locations for the Ramón Navarro profile and pulp mill story that is featured in the film.