GRINGO TRAILS (Pegi Vail). 78 minutes. Some subtitles. Saturday (November 23), 9:15 pm. AGO. See listing. Rating: NNNNN
When Yossi Ghinsberg chronicled his harrowing, near-fatal 1981 trip to the Amazon in the book Jungle, little did he know he’d inspire generations of global backpackers to try to recreate his experiences, transforming the area into a faux adventure tourist trap.
His story bookends Pegi Vail’s absorbing look at how tourism has altered the ecology, geography and culture of some of the world’s most beautiful and remote areas. From Thailand to Timbuktu, travel writers and bloggers have discovered places only to see them overrun by pollution and corruption within a few years.
The most depressing example is Thailand’s gorgeous, isolated Haad Rin beach, now the site of western-themed parties. There’s also something poignant in the story of Bolivia’s Incahuasi Island, which Vail revisits a decade after first going there.
Despite the trend toward what one clever subject calls backpackaging, the cleverly edited and beautifully shot film ends on a hopeful note with the emergence of sustainable models in places like Bhutan, where citizens have fought to limit tourism and preserve their culture.