Monday, January 17, 2011

180 Degrees South: Conquerors of the Useless

This is part V of the Documentary-palooza.  You can check out the first four parts here:  Joan Rivers, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Restrepo, and The Lottery.

Corcovado National Park
180 degrees South is a reference to going directly south (I thought it referenced the South Pole, but that's only 90 degrees of latitude).  The hero of this documentary is Jeff Johnson, a free-spirited outdoorsman who wants to travel the same path as his climber heroes, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, on their trip to climb Corcovado in Chile.  Part of a National Park, the area today is protected as a National Park.  Jeff and two of his buddies, one a climber, one a surfer are going to join him.  But first, Jeff manages to catch a ride south from where he was working in Australia to Chile on a 55-foot cutter sailboat.  However, about halfway across their mast snaps in half.  They don't have enough fuel to motor to the mainland, but do manage to get themselves to Rapa Nui (Easter Island).  Jeff falls for a woman there while they're trying to fix the boat and get underway (it takes nearly a month), which means he has put his climb back a month meaning they've entered South American summer and the snow they intended to use to aid their summit attempt has melted.  Thankfully, these guys are smarter than some climbers and don't let poor planning cost them their lives.  The movie is a great testament to preserving beautiful areas.  From it's conservation perspective, it's very successful.  The scenery is beautiful, awe-inspiring, and thoughtfully chosen.  However, as a climbing documentary, it's well below average - Touching the Void and anything made about Into Thin Air is much more exhilarating.  However, there is a lot of history of the climbing movement mostly told by the heroes, Chounard and Tompkins.  One says about climbing, "The whole purpose of climbing something like Everest to experience some spiritual and physical gain, but if you compromise the process, you're an asshole when you start out and you're an asshole when you get back."  Basically saying from the moment you decide to do something like that you can't just insert yourself into a package to climb, but rather respect the process, learn to do the whole thing from start to finish, prepare yourself, and then respect the mountain above your own pride and ambition.  Those scenes talking about how climbing has changed as a sport is interesting, but those are just conversations.  For a movie that focuses on climbing, the filming of the actual climb is minimal.  Overall, it's still well made and a great look at one man's journey.  3.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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