Documentary takes the long road

March 19, 2024 BY

The Road to Patagonia is a documentary from director Matty Hannon. Photos: FACEBOOK/HEATHER HILLIER

Acclaimed documentary The Road to Patagonia is striking a chord with local audiences, with recent screenings selling out.

The 90-minute film includes footage shot over the space of 16 years and follows the documentary’s director, former Point Lonsdale resident Matty Hannon, as he initially films his solo adventure to surf the west coast of the Americas by motorbike, from the top of Alaska to the tip of Patagonia in South America.

But deep in the wilderness, alone with the wolves and the bears, his plans unexpectedly fall to pieces.

After losing everything and teetering on the cusp of quitting, he meets the girl of his dreams: permaculture farmer Heather Hillier, who throws caution to the wind and sells her farm to buy a bike of her own.

Riding south together, the duo meet with Zapatista rebels, Amazonian shamans and Mapuche leaders whose words crack the adventurers’ cultural veneer.

The Road to Patagonia premiered at the 2022 Byron Bay International Film Festival, where it won Best Film and Best Documentary, and its other plaudits include Audience Choice awards at both the Florida Surf Film Festival and the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival.

Hannon admitted it was “kind of ridiculous” to have the story of how he and Hillier met and fell in love on show for the whole world to see.

“But it’s also a really nice thing – we’ve got a young son now, and just on our own personal level, it feels like a really nice thing to be able to pass onto him.

“We’re pregnant with our second kid now… not that it’s that important, the film, but it’s a nice present for them in the future.”

Footage for the film was shot over the space of 16 years.


He said he loved surfing films, but they had been “saying the same thing for decades” and he was not interested in replicating that with The Road to Patagonia.

“I was more intrigued about looking deeper into the lives of the people an the communites we visited, and using the things they told us as a mirror to hold up against our own experiences, and analysing our own self and place in the world… globalisation, colonisation, and how humans fit into the biosphere.”

Hannon said he had no idea what the audience response would be to his finished documentary – which he is now touring across Australia – but it had been both varied and heartening.

“Some people have come up and said simple things like ‘This is so nostalgic for me, it really reminded me of the travels I’ve done’.

“At almost every screening, somebody comes up to us with tears in their eyes and says it touched them deeply.

“I guess the love story tends to get the emotional hook for some people, but for most part, it’s the element of the deep ecology and connection to nature.

“Maybe it’s feeling into ancestral ways of being human, as opposed to what we perceive in Australia as regular modernity. I think it really connects with people, because a lot of people feel very lost in today’s society. Even for high-functioning people, it’s like ‘What is our purpose of being human?’.”

The Road to Patagonia will be screened, including a special Q&A with Hannon and Hillier, at Lorne Theatre this Friday, March 22 and at The Pivotonian Cinema on April 7.

For more information and tickets, head to Lorne Theatre

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