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Case Number 19049: Small Claims Court

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180 Degrees South

Magnolia Pictures // 2010 // 86 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // June 9th, 2010

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All Rise...

Appellate Judge James A. Stewart isn't afraid of tiki building.

Editor's Note

Our review of 180 Degrees South (Blu-Ray), published June 17th, 2010, is also available.

The Charge

"For me, adventure is when everything goes wrong. That's when the adventure starts."

The Case

If you enjoy travelogues, you might marvel at the way they're all meticulously planned. Every moment of one of Samantha Brown's weekends must have been laid out weeks in advance so she could pack everything in. Imagine if her boat needed repairs and she got stranded somewhere for a month. It would be a calamity; Samantha would be off her itinerary!

Writer and adventurer Jeff Johnson actually did get stranded during the making of 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless, a travel documentary about his trip to Patagonia to attempt to climb Cerro Corcovado. Moreover, it looks like it was kind of nice, even if he was spending a lot of time working on fixing a boat with his buds. Horseback riding, exploring the coastline, surfing, and meeting a nice, adventurous woman were all part of his unplanned stay on Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island.

The footage of the mast tumbling into the water, followed by the surprise detour, is the main thing that makes 180° South work. There are some offbeat scenes of Johnson lounging around, bored, on ship, but it's the detour that freshens up what probably would have been a routine travelogue otherwise.

What Johnson planned was to follow in the footsteps of Yvan Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, who made a 1968 drive to Patagonia which was documented in Mountain of Storms. "The Pan-American Highway was pretty wild. It was dirt road from Mexico City all the way south," Chouinard recalls.

Johnson does eventually get to Patagonia, and he meets Chouinard and Tompkins, who have founded Conservacion Patagonia, which buys up land for conservation. He even brings his adventurous female friend Makohe along for the climb. Johnson is an engaging enough guide and narrator for the trip, but the two old explorers, Chouinard and Tompkins, have an easygoing nature that makes you want to hear more from them, even when they're detouring into environmentalist territory.

The camera work is done well, and the editing gives it a rough, edgy look. There are animated scenes, showing the effects of tiki building on the Easter Island environment and the expected effects of a dam, to break things up.

The Making of 180° South reveals the moral of the story—"You can follow your own path, and you can pick a path that makes a difference"—as it describes the filming, music, and animation choices. There's also a brief A Look at 180° South that's more of a trailer, and there's an actual trailer.

The Verdict

Not guilty. This'll have Samantha Brown checking any boats she boards, just to make sure her producers haven't sabotaged the mast.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 88

Perp Profile

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• English
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Documentary

Distinguishing Marks

• Featurettes
• Trailer


• IMDb

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