Review: Stranded! The Andes Plane Crash Survivors

I saw this on BBC4 late last night. It’s not that new, maybe a year or so old, but it passed me by when it first came out.

It is a docudrama about Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, aka the ‘Andes flight disaster’. In 1972, a small aeroplane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashes deep within the Andes. The plane went down in a huge storm, nobody knew where. All were missing, presumed dead.

Against truly Biblical odds – 16 out of 45 would ultimately survive. They were completely isolated and cut off from the world for 2.5 months. Without food. Without shelter. Without anything. In the end, they had to resort to cannibalism to survive.

These young people were pushed to the very edge of extinction. How they endured such unimaginable hardship is nothing short of a miracle and quite impossible to comprehend.

The documentary was made by a childhood friend of the survivors and was very powerful. Certainly not like most tv ‘docu-reenactments’ which aren’t usually up to much. This was incredibly good. The survivors, 30 years on, finally felt able to recount their story in their own words. Still so many tears. Such emotion.

Of the many voices heard in the film, the closest one to a group spokesman is Fernando Parrado, aka Nando, who lost his sister and his mother in the crash. Carrying no equipment, he and a fellow survivor, Roberto Canessa, hiked 44 miles over peaks more than 13,000 feet high until they discovered signs of civilization. Three days before Christmas, they were spotted by a Chilean shepherd, who remembers, “They smelled of the grave; no animal would go near them.” (Source: New York Times)

I thought this was far more rewarding to watch than Alive, the 1993 film starring Ethan Hawke. This was so deeply moving on so many levels. Really profound. One of those things that stays with you for a long, long time. It was their companionship and camaraderie that got them through; and their trust in God.

You can read more about it on the survivors’ own website.

If you are in the UK with access to BBC iPlayer, it’s up for another 6 days. I recommend it.

It’s also available on DVD.

TV, movie, book, theatre, art reviews

6 thoughts on “Review: Stranded! The Andes Plane Crash Survivors

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  1. I’ve never been able to watch Alive – the thought of cannibalism, even as an alternative to death, just turns my stomach. Better hope I never get stuck in the Andes for 2 months!

  2. Vic – oh I know, it’s the most horrible idea imaginable. Too awful to contemplate, even more so when it’s close friends / family. Horrific. But against inconceivable odds they survived.

    I think the human survival instinct to live rather than to die would make you do the unimaginable; at least I think it would me.

    It was a really well made film. Wish I’d recorded it (and that’s quite an unusual thing to say given the subject matter).

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