Wednesday, July 9, 2014

4 Films Every Minimalist Should Watch

1. Into The Wild 

Into The Wild is a true story about an idealistic and courageous young man named Christopher McCandless.  Rejecting a life of luxury and abundance, he sets fire to his social security car, gives away all of his money, and sets out on a nationwide journey with hardly the clothes on his back. He heads west, meeting all kinds of interesting characters, while accruing skills and resources for his ultimate quest to live in the Alaskan bush.  

Years after his death, his life is looked at as either great heroism or absolute idiocracy.  Whichever way the coin flips, Chris' unwavering resolve to chase after what he wanted most in life, is something that resonates with those longing for adventure, passion, and escape.  

Greed is a large theme in the film, and in some ways, is the antagonist.  Chris' father works for NASA and is very well off.  On a prior cross-country trip, Chris discovers that his father was still married to another woman when his mother gave birth to him and his sister.  His father's dark secrets make Chris distrusting of people and rebellious to everything his family stands for: money, power, greed. 

In an interview with 20/20, his sister said, "He got more out of his 24 years, than most people do in 90."  That's the connection to minimalism.  Minimalism strikes down the social norms so you can purse that which is most meaningful to you.  His minimalist lifestyle allowed him to pursue his dreams. I remember reading the book, in high school, while staring at Mt. Whistler, and debating back and forth whether or not I should cash out my bank account and head for the hills.  


Tiny is a documentary about the tiny house movement.  Tiny houses are small, micro homes, generally under 200 square feet.  To get around building codes, many tiny home builders will build them on trailers, as a quaint RV-like cabin.  Within the last ten years, the movement has grown enormous steam, with endless online resources in the form of blueprints, blogs, DIY resources, workshops, and even build to order finished cabins.  

With the average American home being several times that of most other nations, the tiny house movement hopes to cut down on home building costs, mortgages, and the environmental footprint of its dwellers. 

3. 180 South 

180 South is a documentary about Jeff Johnson, a young man trying to relive the epic adventures of two of his heros, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompson, the founders of Patagonia and The North Face.  Wide-eyed with adventure, Jeff takes a sailboat down to South America and attempts to climb virgin peaks in Patagonia with the two adventurers, each pushing 70, but still vibrant and young at heart.  
Doug and Yvon have poured their lives and their resources into privately buying up acreage in Patagonia to preserve it for the next generation.  They plan to turn it into a National Park, to be kept pristine for generations to come.  Mining, agriculture, and urban sprawl are endangering some of the most stunning scenery on the planet.  Through this film and the work of their conservation group, Patagonia will remain pure forever.  For the past twenty years, Doug and his wife, have lived in Patagonia, building the conservation and advocating for the preservation of the land. 

The film does a perfect job of showing the consequences of materialism and has a bent towards the idea of blazing your own trail in life.  It is just one more example that you don't have to pursue the house, the job, or the car as a young adult.  The world is a big place, full of opportunity and adventure for those brave enough to pursue it.

Some quotes from the film: 
  • "I think it leaves open possibilities for future generations. It doesn't seem to be worth wasting a lot of energy on attempting to rewrite the past. I just realized, at least what i was doing, is that i was making a lot of stuff that nobody needed and pushing a consumerist society. so i went to do something else." 
  • "It's easy for us to blindly consume, when we dont see the effects it has on other places. The hardest thing in the world is to simply your life, it's so easy to make it complex. What's important is leading an examined life because most of the damaged caused by humans is caused unintentionally, I think. And in response to people saying,'You can't go back.' and I say, 'Well what happens when you get to the edge of the cliff. Do you take one step forward or do 180° turn and take one step forward? Which way you goin? Which is progress?' The solution to many of the world's problems maybe to turn around and to take a forward step. You can't just keep trying to make a flawed system work."

4. The Way 

The Way is a powerful film unlike any other I have ever seen.  It has left a deep mark on me, and it has been difficult for me to put into words, into the box one centralized theme.  The story follows a man, hardened by life and society's expectations, as he finishes a quest started by his son.  

One day, while playing golf in his comfortable life, he gets a phone call from France saying that his son is dead.  He flies to France to bring his son home, and discovers that his son died while walking the Camino de Santiago trail that spans parts of France and Spain.  Instead of immediately departing, he takes his son's ashes, throws on his son's backpack, and heads towards Santiago.  Along the way, he meets up with a motley group of travelers, each hoping to find healing on the Camino.  

He learns to love the simplicity of life on the road.  At the beginning of the film, he sees his son's way of life as foolish, but then he begins to see the joy of living out of a backpack and experiencing the world.  The film is really an unhardening of a man.  Hopefully we won't find our way as an old man, but embrace our truth now.  But, it's never too late to forge your own path.  


Each of these films drive home the idea of forsaking society's standards to do what you feel is right in your own heart.  Each hold an urgency, that life is too short to live by society's expectations.  Each film exalts a simple lifestyle, and the peace and joy that come from simple living.  I hope that they inspire you to not settle, but blaze your own trail. 

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