Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5
France/Uruguay/Argentina/Spain/USA, 2007. ARTE, Alea Docs & Films, Ethan Productions, HD Argentina, ITVS – International Media Development Fund, La Realidad, Morocha Films, Sylicone, Uno Films. Screenplay by Gonzalo Arijon, Deborah Ford. Cinematography by Cesar Charlone. Produced by Hilary Sandison, Marc Silvera. Music by Florencia Di Concilio. Production Design by Osvaldo Reyno, Mónica Talamas. Costume Design by Diego Aguirre Garay. Film Editing by Claudio Hughes.
The story is still well known thanks to the popularity of Frank Marshall’s harrowing 1993 drama Alive: a small plane carrying a rugby team and their friends and family headed for a match in Santiago, Chile took off from Montevideo, Uruguay and never reached its destination. The plane crashed on a mountain in the Andes, instantly killing a number of its passengers while leaving others harmed. Twenty-four people survived the crash, struggling to find a way to stay alive atop a snowy mountain while the less-injured figured out a way to go get help. Their efforts at survival don’t end there, however, as a deadly avalanche takes out more members of their party and the scarcity of food eventually brings them to a very dire line of survival, the only option to keep going is to consume the bodies of members of the dead. Almost forty years later, members of the sixteen survivors of this devastating ordeal are on camera, interviewed by director Gonzalo Arijon, who knew many of the passengers from their youth, telling the entire tale from beginning to end in detail. As a documentary it doesn’t rewrite any formatting of the genre, it’s talking heads, photographs and a few skillfully achieved dramatic re-enactments, but it does feel like it gets deeper than the dramatic version of the tale; seeing the effect that survival by cannibalism still has on these people is a very powerful experience. Details of the survivors’ lives after rejoining human civilization are a bonus, as is very moving footage of members of the disaster revisiting the site of their ordeal with family members decades later. This is a great tribute to a very powerful story, it feels free of manipulation and is unconcerned with finding the entertaining elements of the story, but instead allows every witness to simply tell their tale in full.