You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains

A docu constructed from re-enactments packs a punch.

With: Roberto Francois, Roy Harley, Nando Parrado, Antonio Vizintin. (Spanish dialogue)

Like the story it tells — one of nobility born of degradation — “Stranded: I’ve Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains” is an oxymoron: a docu constructed from re-enactments, talking heads and no actual footage of the story it tells, but that still packs a knock-out punch. A cinematic tour de force with strong chances for crossover theatrical success, “Stranded” is already slated for Sundance, where helmer Gonzalo Arijon’s deftly wrought tale will have audiences eating out of its hand.

Three days before Christmas 1972, a pair of Uruguayan rugby players walked out of the Andes. “They smelled of the grave,” remembers one of the Chilean shepherds who greeted them, and why not: It had been two months since a plane carrying 45 players, coaches and friends of Montevideo’s Old Christians rugby team went down in a blinding snowstorm.

Twenty-five survived the initial crash (on a Friday the 13th); eight died in an avalanche later, and one succumbed to sustained injuries. When it became known that the remaining 16 survived by eating their dead, it sensationalized what was already one of the great tales of human survival. But in Arijon’s hands, and through the reminiscences of the survivors, the so-called cannibal aspects of the story are sanctified: It was necessary, they say, and their friends would have understood. The gravity with which each of the men considers his own memories makes any titillation seem banal.

There are two photographs identified as genuine articles — one, taken aboard the plane, shows the group of blithely adolescent 19-year-olds en route to a rugby game in Chile. The other is taken from the rear of the downed aircraft — a vision of frosty, inescapable bleakness. The aptly named Valley of Tears, where the wreckage of the plane came to rest (and where it was all but invisible to rescue planes and helicopters), is a high-sided bowl of snow and ice, and while the present-day survivors recall their plight, Arijon provides a dramatization — of the trip, the crash and the subsequent battle to survive. These re-enactments manage to be moving rather than cheesy; there is no dialogue within them, and very little intimacy.

Arijon spent hours, perhaps days, with each of his subjects, who reveal not surface facts, but their deepest feelings about an experience that had to have been not only psychologically harrowing and physically torturous, but also spiritually unnerving. The act of consuming their friends’ flesh became a kind of communion, they recall (an aspect rendered far less convincingly in the 1993 feature film “Alive”).

“Stranded” was pitched at the Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in 2005, drew the cooperation of 10 broadcast entities and premiered to rousing response at the fest in a kind of homecoming. There are obvious reasons for pic’s success, not the least of which is the editing by Claudio Hughes, Samuel Lajus, Alice Larry; during a scene in which survivors recount an avalanche, there is a sequence of cuts from mute witness to mute witness, their dangling silence as deafening as what might have been heard in those snow-muted Andes.

There is much disturbing content in “Stranded,” and never is any of it handled with anything but deliberate care. The men continue to do honor to their comrades through an obvious, lingering regret about desecrating the corpses; the audience can’t help but share the sense of respect. It’s been 35 years the incident, but “Stranded” suggests the men have only just now, at the moment they appear onscreen, summoned up the courage to talk about it at all.

Production values are superb.

Popular on Variety

Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed in the Mountains


Production: A Realidad, Ethan Prods. presentation in association with Arte France, ITVS, BBC-Storyville, the CBC. (International sales: Arte France, Paris). Produced by Hilary Sandison, Marc Silvera. Co-producer, Helen Coldefy. Directed, written by Gonzalo Arijon.

Crew: Camera (color/B&W, video, 16mm), Cesar Charlone, Pablo Hernan Zubizaretta; editor, Claudio Hughes, Samuel Lajus, Alice Larry; music, Florencia di Concilio; sound, Georges Lafitte; sound designer, Fabian Oliver. Reviewed at Intl. Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (competing), Nov. 28, 2007. (Also in Sundance Film Festival -- World Cinema, competing.) Running time: 130 MIN.

With: With: Roberto Francois, Roy Harley, Nando Parrado, Antonio Vizintin. (Spanish dialogue)

More Film

  • Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film

    Luxbox Closes Sales on Venice Film 'Sole' to U.S., France (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fiorella Moretti and Hedi Zardi’s Paris-based sales agency Luxbox has closed several territory deals on Carlos Sironi’s “Sole,” which screened in Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti section and Toronto Film Festival’s Discovery sidebar. The film just won the audience award at Pingyao Intl. Film Festival in China and a Special Jury Mention for the lead actors [...]

  • Puerto Rican singer Ozuna poses during

    Ozuna Joins Vin Diesel in 'Fast & Furious 9'

    Ozuna, one of Latin music’s fastest-rising stars, has signed with UTA for representation. And to kick off the relationship, the agency has landed him a role in “Fast & Furious 9.” He is also in talks to join the film’s soundtrack. Justin Lin, who directed “Fast & Furious 6,” returns to direct the ninth installment [...]

  • Writers vs Agents Packaging War WGA

    Writers Guild Boosting Efforts in Project Development Amid Agency Standoff

    The Writers Guild of America, locked in a six-month standoff with major talent agencies, has announced that it’s boosting efforts at gathering TV, streaming and film project development data to help members find new employment opportunities. The WGA made the disclosure in a message to members on Monday. The guild directed its 15,000 members to fire [...]

  • Fernando Meirelles The Two Popes

    AFI Fest Adds 'The Two Popes,' 'Aeronauts,' Alan Pakula Tribute

    The American Film Institute has added “The Two Popes” and “The Aeronauts” as galas during the upcoming AFI Fest along with a tribute to the late director Alan Pakula. AFI had previously announced that the romantic drama “Queen & Slim” would launch the 33rd annual festival on Nov. 14 and close with the world premiere [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bloodshot (Vin Diesel) in Columbia Pictures'

    Vin Diesel Comes Back to Life in 'Bloodshot' Trailer

    Vin Diesel is coming back again and again in Sony Pictures’ first trailer for “Bloodshot.” In the forthcoming superhero adventure, Diesel portrays Ray Garrison a.k.a. Bloodshot, a soldier who gets rebuilt by a corporation following his death. The clip, released Monday and scored to Johnny Cash’s rendition of the ballad “Memories are Made of This,” [...]

  • Bouli Lanners Teams With 'Peaky Blinders'

    Bouli Lanners Teams With 'Peaky Blinders' Director Tim Mielants on 'Wise Blood'

    Bouli Lanners, the Belgian actor-director of “The Giants” and “Eldorado,” is teaming with “Peaky Blinders” helmer Tim Mielants to direct “Wise Blood,” an English-language film that will star “Game of Thrones” actor Michelle Fairley and Julian Glover. “Wise Blood” is a Belgian-Scottish-French co-production between Versus Production, Barry Crerar, and Playtime, which will handle international sales [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content