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The actual survivors of the 1972 Andes plane crash have finally spoken,
and you will be captivated by their words. Gonzalo Arijon, a neighbor
and friend of many of the survivors, has put together a documentary
called "Stranded: I Have Come from a Plane that Crashed on the
Mountains" that retells the story and illuminates it with commentary
from all the survivors. The result is the closest one could possibly
get to empathizing with that situation and gaining any sort of
understanding of how life changes when you are stranded in the
mountains for over 70 days.
The film tells it from right as they are getting on the plane until their eventual rescue, leaving very little out. It runs a bit too long, but it's worth it for the emotional impact. You need to have some familiarity with the monotony of the survivors' lives for those two months to truly appreciate their rescue.
While the survivors are the ones who truly make this story come to life, Arijon succeeds in his reenactments and the way he overlaps the survivors' words with these images. He never reenacts anything dramatically or let any words other than those of the survivors into the film. The images he recreates simply set a mood, provide some sort of visual context for the words of the survivors.
The way these men describe what happened is simply remarkable. They seem to recall it so vividly and the words they use to convey feelings that an overwhelming majority of people cannot ever say they have experienced in such a way that you can understand it. When the survivors are hit with an avalanche, the way they describe this near-death experience gives you a sense of what death might feel like. It is not far off when these men refer to their survival as coming back to life. The silence during the very sensitive and difficult parts is also very appropriate and effective. Lastly, the survivors come at the experience from all angles. There is so much to think about in this film from the way they view life now to how being outside of civilization affects your mind to the ethical considerations of the cannibalism that these men chose to partake in.
"Stranded" is powerful, deep and rich with complexity. It was far and away worth the four years of effort and care that Arijon gave it. It is simply one of the best stories of human perseverance ever and the film conveys this with absolute accuracy. ~Steven C
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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
In this excellent documentary survivors of the famous 1972 rugby team
plane that crashed in the Andes tell their story with reenactments.
This time, unlike the case of Errol Morris' new film about the Abu
Ghraib scandal, 'Standard Operating Procedure,' reenactments cause no
discomfort, even though aspects of the events shown are famously
chilling. That's because in this context, as with Kevin Macdonald's
'Touching the Void' (coincidentally also about survivors in the Andes),
participants in the events are present on-screen to describing
everything in detail so staged scenes don't feel like intrusion or
speculation. There was a film dramatizing the events, Frank Marshall's
1993 'Alive,' with Ethan Hawke, Vincent Spano, and others, but this
will be the definitive film statement on this event, one of the great
survival stories of recent times. The grainy recreations blend
seamlessly with the actual film footage shot of the survivors at the
moment when they were rescued.
It was October. They were just going from their home town in Uraguay for a friendly rugby match in Chile, flying over the dramatic, snowy heights of the Andes mountains. And then it happened: the plane is in the middle of a snow storm with heavy winds, the pilot loses control, and they go down. The crash was quiet, soft, mysterious, some survivors report. The 24 who were still living were mostly fine. What logic, they ask, in their survival; the others' death? Marcelo, leader of the team, set a ration of one square of chocolate and a small cup of liquor a day.
An aerial search for the crashed plane was almost impossible because it was a year of exceptional storms, the reason the plane went down.
At first we see the men who survived talking about the trip, the mood, the flight, and the crash. And there are quick, often hazy reenactment shots. Later, some of the survivors are seen actually there in the recent present, revisiting the site, remembering the dizziness, weakness, and nausea of hunger, eating face cream, drinking deodorant cups of wine and feeling drunk--and all that followed.
And then one describes realizing as the days pass and they grow weaker what they'd have to do--"Either we do it, or die." It was a gradual consensus among them that they'd have to "take that step." They had entered a new world where a dead body could be a meal, as one puts it. It's with great subtlety and tact that the film leads up to this difficult subject. In the end, the viewer is spared nothing. It was a choice to live--a responsibility to parents and family to use any means necessary. It wasn't brute instinct but a debated, considered decision. And yet it was not unanimous, and ultimately remained "another unsolved problem." Some saw it as a kind of holy communion. And this is how, in an effective statement to the public, one of them stilled the sensationalism of the press later on.
The radio told them after thirteen days the air search was called off--a terrible blow. They knew then they had to get out on their own. This is where some made a heroic effort to climb up out of the basin where the plane lay.
Suddenly one night the others think they're dead when the plane gets buried by avalanche, so their refuge became a trap from which they had to dig out. In this event their team leader Marcelo died along with another person and they were all buried for three days. And the avalanches continued.
There were several expeditions, the big one by three, after more deaths, at 61 days. One returns, because he is not fit enough. The two "expeditionaries" on the eighth or ninth day come to a path where there's no snow, and there is water and livestock. They see two shepherds, and throw them a rock with a message about who they are. When they're taken back in a helicopter to rescue the others, it's unbelievable how far they walked. This return to the scene and the event 35 years later is perhaps the first time all the survivors could fully look these events in the face. It helps that these rugby players all came from the same school and still live close together. They're almost like one big family. This is a very social experience all the way through--unlike many survivor stories, which tend to be lonely. But still, this is not the kind of thing many of us go through. There's a lot to ponder and digest here, and it's presented with the utmost skill and taste.
This is an excellent, respectful piece of work. It made me feel as if I
were there and challenged my preconceptions of this story. It's much
better than the film from 1993 "Alive" which tended to sensationalise.
Do try to see it, you will be a better person for it.
Says the Telegraph: "They smelled of the grave," says a Chilean shepherd as he describes his first encounter with some of the survivors of the infamous 1972 plane crash in the Andes which hit the headlines with its tales of cannibalism. Gonzalo Arijón's dramatised documentary recalls the aftermath of a snowstorm that caused a plane carrying 45 members of a Uruguayan rugby team to crash in the appropriately named Valley of Tears. Sixteen of them survived by eating the dead, an "intimate communion" movingly recalled in the reminiscences of the survivors. It makes for a well-crafted, powerful film about human survival."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
So many times, when film footage is recreated for a documentary, it has
none of the power that actual film footage has. Also the recreated
footage usually does not have the dramatic power normally associated
with a narrative film because documentaries don't usually have the
budget necessary for proper sets, special effects or access to good
But, Stranded: I've Come From A Plane That Crashed In The Mountains. . . manages to intermix old film footage, a handful of real still photographs, new film shot in the actual locations of the disaster along with LOTS of recreated film footage into a stunning mix that makes Stranded the best documentary on a disaster I have seen in a long time.
The basic story is well known. In October 1972, a small plane carrying a group of Uruguayan rugby players took off for neighboring Chile and disappeared in the Andes Mountains.
Rescuers were dispatched on both land and air, but no one could locate the wrecked plane and all passengers were thought lost. Although the plane had crashed, there were 29 survivors, many of them uninjured.
These young men would now embark on an ordeal of survival unrivaled in history. They would be pushed to physical extremes like surviving unfathomable cold and hunger to getting buried in an avalanche.
They would be pushed to great mental limits by seeing so many friends die along with resorting to cannibalism to survive. When you consider that sixteen would ultimately survive the ordeal, the fact that this story still captures the imagination should come as no surprise.
The truth is most everyone only wants to hear about the cannibalism. The fact that the filmmakers very skillfully handle this delicate aspect of the story without exploiting it for its tabloid appeal is admirable.
There are a few moments where I groaned though, like when one of the survivors tells us he had a bad feeling about getting on the doomed plane in the first place. Is this true?
Who knows? I just wish some of these people who all say AFTER an accident that they knew this was going to happen, would have opened their mouths beforehand.
Another man intones with solemnity that they took off on Friday the 13th. Well, so did ten thousand others planes that day and none of them crashed in the mountains.
In any case, since there were precious few real photos of this event, the filmmakers had to resort to staging recreations and I commend the imagination of the director, cinematographer and actors for making what could have been cheesy actually interesting cinematically.
We hear from some of the helicopter rescue pilots talking about their early forays into the mountains to look for the missing plane. One pilot explains the problem of looking for pieces of tiny wreckage in these huge mountains.
Then we see the snowy peaks and valleys from his point of view and your heart sinks because you suddenly realize that seeing some small speck of wreckage from this height will be almost impossible.
I had to laugh when a desperate family member contacts a well-known psychic for help in locating the downed plane. Her psychic powers lead her to offer this "helpful" information.
They should look for a white plane, which will be hard to see in the snowy mountains. Also, the wings will be missing and the fuselage will be partly buried. Thanks a lot!
Did the psychic offer any useful information like where exactly the plane was, or how many people survived? Not a chance! Useless moronic psychic, God how I hate them!
Stranded is a long film, but I was never bored for even a second, especially when they find the tail of the plane, and along with a radio battery (that sadly doesn't work) they also find a camera.
These pictures taken by the survivors in the middle of their ordeal are stunning. Yet, despite everything, they all manage to smile when a group picture is taken. Still, these photos have a raw power that silenced the audience I saw the film with.
Two survivors hike out of the mountains to get help and against all odds, they succeed. Fortunately the moment is not played like a heroic victory. It is admirably downplayed. The men get help and immediately fly back to rescue their buddies.
Of course, after the rescue, the press was immediately skeptical about how the men survived for more than 70 days without food. What DID they eat? Some doctors added to the confusion by saying there is nothing known to medical science that would explain how these guys could have survived.
Take it from me people, when a so-called "doctor" starts telling you there is no known scientific cause for some phenomena, be wary. It usually means the doctor has fallen into the fallacy of ignorance. He can't explain the phenomena rationally, so therefore, it can't be explained rationally. This is why you get second opinions.
As it turns out, the survivors were not being coy or disingenuous about eating their dead comrades for survival, it's just they knew that fact would be sensationalized, blown out of proportion and misunderstood. They wanted to speak to the families of their dead friends first and not have them hear about it from lurid newspaper descriptions.
The end of the film shows some of the survivors back at the place that was their home for 72 days in late 1972. As they gather at the metal cross that marks the spot (the bodies have long been buried, the plane fuselage destroyed), they remark that it was the death of their friends that allowed them to be here today with their children and grandchildren and they owe their dead friends everything.
It is a moving moment and as worthy a memorial as anyone could come up with.
It is hard to describe the excitement of these young rugby players,
some rich and pampered, who were getting a chance to get away for a
long weekend and spread their wings. They were full of anticipation of
things to come.
In a short time, they experienced their first snow. The only problem was that they were chest deep in it on top of a mountain with dead bodies all around them.
But, the crash wasn't the end of it. After settling down to survive, they were caught in an avalanche that took eight more. It was harder to eat the bodies of their friends. They were trapped in the fuselage and couldn't get to the bodies outside. They had to use the bodies that were in there with them.
The amazing journey of those sent to find help was unbelievable. Without experience or equipment, they travelled for eight days over the mountains.
The story is told 30 years later by the 16 survivors and they make the reenactments come alive with their stories.
It is not a gruesome tale. They looked at what they were doing as something spiritual. The fact that they maintained calm and acted as a group is a powerful humanistic comment on men.
¨We had to do things that I don't think any animal is capable of
In 1972 a group of Uruguayan rugby players were on their way to Chile for an international match when the plane crashed in the middle of the Andes. Several passengers survived the horrific crash, but the worst was still to come because they were left stranded in the middle of a vast white mountain chain with ho help in sight. After more than 70 days in the mountains, sixteen passengers managed to survive. We've heard the story before; they even made a film in 1993 starring Ethan Hawke inspired on these true events. What is unique about this documentary is that for the first time in 30 years the 16 survivors got together to travel back to where the horrific events took place and they share their story accompanied by some family members who wouldn't have been alive today if they hadn't survived that terrible experience. The survivors share their testimony beginning from the anticipation many of them had before leaving Montevideo as it was for some their first international flight, continuing to how horrible the crash was and the experience of losing family members and friends, and finally sharing their struggle for survival in this unknown territory. They hold no bars, they speak about how they had to eat the dead bodies of their friends in order to survive, and even convert that terrible experience of cannibalism into a spiritual journey. Finally the documentary ends with the climactic expedition two passengers decide to make in order to find help. This is a tale of survival like you haven't seen before and one worth experiencing.
The title is much longer than the original one, La Sociedad de la Nieve (Society of the Snow), but in a way it does hook and captivate your attention. The documentary is based on the Uruguayan bestselling novel in which the 16 survivors share their unique experiences through that terrible ordeal. The documentary may not have great technical visuals, but it is worth watching for the testimonies alone. There is one scene where one of the survivors is talking about how difficult it was for them to eat human flesh, while he is eating some snacks during the interview in the same spot where they had crashed 30 years ago. These men knew that they had no other way to survive and feel no remorse for what they have done because they know it was the right decision. They not only justified their actions, but some even managed to make it a spiritual one by comparing it with Jesus' last supper. The interviews alone are what make this film worth watching because there are very few original photos or reenactments. It is all about this group of friends and how they managed to survive sticking together. The film doesn't focus so much on the deaths or the cannibalism; it doesn't try to be sensationalistic, it is more about the human spirit and the struggle for survival. I felt like it touched a lot more on human emotions rather than on trying to make a circus of the entire situation like the press did 30 years ago. The final 30 minutes are completely gripping and fascinating. This is one of those rare documentaries that will stick with you for a long time.
Stranded was directed by Gonzalo Arijon with a very humanistic approach. This could have been such a tasteless film, but he really gets to the heart of the matter and gives each one of the survivors time to share their point of views and testimonies. This film won several awards and was even nominated for the Grand Jury Prize in the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, but unfortunately it was competing against Man on Wire, the documentary that won pretty much every prize that year including the Oscar. I might be biased, but I really enjoyed this one much more. I was fascinated by the story despite knowing all about it. I simply loved the way the entire project was approached and how well the retelling of the story was done. This is a remarkable and emotional documentary, one you won't want to miss. The testimonies of what happened during the avalanche and the near death experience was probably the highlight of the film for me. It was truly shocking and gripping.
The story of the survivors of the famous plane crash that inspired
'Alive' the book and movie.
But rather than focus on the sensationalistic aspects (the death, the cannibalism), it focuses on the emotions, the spiritual crisies, the triumphs and the humanity of these remarkable men.
Through a mix of amazingly candid, open (and beautifully shot) interviews, subtle, well done re- creation footage (a technique I usually despise, but is done so deftly that it works), old footage and photographs, and film of the men returning to the site of their harrowing adventure 30 years later, some with their children, this creates a deeply moving portrait of friendship, loss, courage, and introspection.
One of my earliest memories was when little Billy Markland came into
kindergarten and told everyone, "a plane crashed and the people ate the
people." That was all he said, and for years if not decades, that's
basically all the world knew about it. Sure some details emerged, a
book was written, and Ethan Hawke did a movie about it, but we never
really got the full story. Not like we finally get here.
When I say "the full story", I'm not talking about the gory details of what human flesh tastes like (which, be honest, is what we're all wondering!). But what this film offers is some profound insight into the minds of the survivors, as told by themselves.
I was really surprised at how intelligent and philosophical their statements are. The survivors touch on many compelling subjects, like "is cannibalism an act of primitive savagery, or could it be an evolutionary step forward?" The kids aboard the doomed flight were mostly religious and with strong moral consciences. But when morality interferes with survival, does it become obsolete? Another interesting topic touched upon is "how does a social structure form itself?" We are given insight into what codes of behaviour emerge among a group of people who are no longer bound to follow any codes of behaviour. If you think author William Golding had it pegged in "Lord of the Flies", you might want to watch this as the antithesis to that pessimistic parable of human society.
Therein lies the power of this documentary. It's not just a tale of 14 survivors in the snow. It's an allegory of the entire human species and what we do to survive and hopefully evolve into something greater.
This is the kind of film that can provide hours of interesting debate around the dinner table (uh... well maybe not the DINNER table). If you approach it like a scientist studying an experiment, you will be fascinated. In fact, one of the survivors talks about how it felt like they were guinea pigs in some laboratory test, designed to show how humans hold up under the most maddening conditions.
The only minor criticism I have is that the documentary feels slightly biased, aiming to glorify the survivors and shy away from any negative portrayals. That's fair; the survivors doubtlessly deserve glorification. But it made me wonder if there was a little more to the story that we weren't told. I admit that's sheer cynical speculation (I should probably stop watching Fox News).
In any case, this is a well-made documentary with lots of intelligent interviews, some convincing, dramatic re-enactments and definitely enough meat to it. Oooh, bad metaphor... Let's just say the film really picks your brain. Oopsie, another TASTELESS quip. Haha, I bet you're FED UP WITH PEOPLE like me... Aw, please don't give me the COLD SHOULDER.....
Cannibals hate comedians... because they taste funny. Yuk yuk
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story is one of the most compelling chronicles of survival I have heard about in my lifetime. I remember the headlines at the time it happened and I followed the story as it unfolded as I was a college student at the time, the same age as some of the rugby team members. I don't think this docudrama succeeds on its own steam with its structure of survivor interviews interspersed with some cheesy deliberately muted 'dramatizations.' But then the movie 'Alive!' didn't do it for me either. It was reading Piers Paul Reid's account that made the incident come alive for me - his narrative was rich in detail and suspense. This documentary was at its best when the survivors recounted the avalanche and what their near death experiences were like. Quite memorable. And it was heartwarming to see the survivors alive today and still (apparently) bonded. The best parts were the all too brief newsreel footage clips of Parrado and Canessa being interviewed and of what looks like either Carlitos Paez or Bobby Francois emotionally clutching his father. There should have been more of these and the film should have let those strong types of images speak for themselves. Strikingly missing was an explanation of how Parrado and Canessa reached safety, which Reid's book goes into detail about. Though everyone worked together as a team, as is stressed by all accounts, to be honest, it was the mental determination and athletic strength of the one man everybody put their bets on, Nando Parrado, who really saved the day. There wasn't enough footage devoted to this brave, remarkable man whose insistence on survival is still incredibly inspirational and mind-boggling at the same time.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The 16 survivors of the Andes plane crash retell the story of their
survival as they revisit the actual site where the plane went down and
where their friends and team mates are buried.
Each survivor describes his experience reliving the feelings of despair and hopelessness being stranded in the bitter cold, avalanches and snow and of course, of having to eventually eat the dead.
Obviously, this can be grim and dark but it is well made. I think I would have preferred a narrator though to tell the story as the members share their own experiences. We do learn all the grim details of the crash and how people survived.
Sad and sobering yet at the same time it makes you feel lucky to be alive.
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