Stranded [DVD] 
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The documentary 'Stranded: I Have Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains' recounts in gripping detail the 1972 ordeal suffered by a group of Uruguayan rugby players whose airplane crashed in the Andes. Seventy-two days later, 16 survivors came home, having endured injuries, life-threatening cold, starvation, avalanches and unspeakable emotional and physical hardship.
Their remarkable story was the subject of the 1974 book 'Alive,' which was later turned into a fictionalized movie. But here the survivors themselves finally appear on camera to recount and in large part relive their tale, a harrowing story of courage and spiritual transcendence. Their talking-head interviews are punctuated by reenactments, a few ghostly photographs they took during their time in the mountains and footage of their return to the site of the crash two years ago, with family members in tow. Filmmaker Gonzalo Arijon treats the men's story with compassion and sensitivity, especially regarding the cannibalism to which they resorted in order to survive -- a topic of sensationalized media coverage at the time.
'Stranded' combines the derring-do of classic adventure tales with far more serious issues of moral agency. And it serves as a haunting reminder to seek joy and beauty, even in the depths of despair
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Sadly it was ignored by the Oscars in 2008, but won numerous other awards and will, hopefully in time, earn itself a larger, more appreciative audience.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The uncensored revelation of the facts behind the entire event is a brutal, raw example of the worst-case scenario - way beyond the worst nightmare imaginable - and how people who are just like you and me rose above themselves to do something monumental, inspiring and life-changing.This amazing group of individuals used every fiber of their being to stay alive, to see their loved ones again, and to honor those who had perished and explain their life-saving sacrifices.
The group had no alternative for survival other than by performing the unimaginable, which they did with incredible intelligence and reasoning - intertwined with faith, dignity, respect and love. The degree of determination, presence of mind, and amazing unselfishness that inspired their actions may be almost unfathomable to the of majority of people, because thankfully so few of us are ever put to that kind of test.
The individual descriptions of the events are filled with the spiritual, heartfelt and utterly heart-wrenching feelings of these men. The shocking, sensitive aspects were explained in a way that left me with a complete understanding and empathy toward the individuals and the decisions behind their actions. It's plain to see what led them to do anything and everything in their power in an attempt to survive. They had no choice, because they knew they would not be rescued by any other method than their own faith, drive and ingenuity to make it happen.
The final, death-defying feat that resulted in their rescue after 72 days in hell is irrefutable evidence - in my opinion - of the existence of a power much greater than we are. Surviving the 44 mile journey over 13,000 foot peaks with no equipment, very little to eat and unsuitable clothing in their 10-day ordeal to reach salvation is a true miracle. For those who don't believe in a higher power, you'll appreciate the miracle of the human race and it's ability to overcome adversity. For those who believe in the Creator, appreciate the miracle that it is among so many others and marvel at this example of the human race and it's ability to overcome adversity through faith.
The film pays a highly deserved tribute to everyone who was affected by this tragedy. Their experience and ultimate triumph is an inspiration to anyone who will listen. I can't imagine how anyone could view this and not be affected in some way.
On Friday, October 13, 1972, a college rugby team from Montevideo, Uruguay set out on Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 to Santiago, Chile, where they were to compete in a match. Having changed its route to avoid inclement weather, the plane descended too early over the mountains, severed both wings, and crash-landed high in the snow-covered Andes. Of the 45 people aboard, 29 survived the crash, 23 uninjured. They didn't have adequate clothing for the freezing conditions. Many had never seen snow before. And, even strictly rationed, food would only last a few days. They hoped to be rescued but could hear on the radio that the aerial search was called off due to heavy snow. And yet 16 of the young men spent 72 days on the mountain and lived to talk about it.
All survivors participated, but some say more than others. Fernando "Nando" Parrado, who wrote a book about his experiences, seems to have been a leader after the group lost its team captain. Roberto Canessa, who, with Nando, was responsible for the rescue, is the most pensive and analytical of the experience. Gustavo Zerbina is vibrant and opinionated. Those who had the strongest voices on the mountain have the most to say today. The film places no more emphasis on the men's cannibalism than on any other element of their story, for which I am grateful. I've never understood the fascination with the cannibalism. It's the least interesting aspect of the ordeal. This is an incredible story of survival and escape against all odds and against the indifference and supremacy of Nature. In Spanish with optional English subtitles.
The DVD (Zeitgeist 2009): Bonus features are a US trailer (2 min) and a featurette, "The Making of Stranded" (52 min). This is a loosely organized mix of interviews with survivors that were cut from the final edit of the film, some brief interviews with the director on location, in which he emphasizes that this film is about the experiences of the men, not about action, and we spend time with some of the survivors as they relate more details of their experiences to the young actors who will portray them. Both the film and featurette are in Spanish with optional English subtitles.
Atmospheric recreations, narrated by the survivors, give a chilling sense of the wilderness, isolation, and brutal conditions these people endured. When a group of survivors return to the scene of the crash in 2006 to pay their respects, filmmakers follow. Many of the survivors are accompanied by their children, some the same age as their fathers when the accident occurred. Sitting amid the gorgeous snow-capped peaks of The Valley of Tears 35 year later, these men are able to articulate their experience, including rare moments of profound beauty, in language that is heartfelt and hopeful.
One doesn't feel like a ghoul or vulture watching it.
The film doesn't manipulate the viewers emotions or try to project the producer's interpretation of the survivors' characters or experience. They are shown as people not heroes (which they are in my eyes) or two dimensional characters. The director lets them speak for themselves. The documentary is patient; telling the story meticulously.
One reviewer said it was slow and boring, but the pace I felt, gave you a sense of their experience. After the crash it wasn't exciting and action packed. They were young men plodding through their experience, focused on surviving-- bored, restless, scared, hopeless, hopeful, depressed, and hungry. It is a story of endurance and faith, they had their patience, intelligence, moral fiber and psyche severely tested. The film does a good job of creating that experience for the viewer.
Bonus: the Uruguayan accent.
This movie isn't just a filmed series of interviews; many, if not all, of the survivors made the trip back to the scene of their terrible ordeal 35 years later. Their stories told us so much more than we had known before and their eloquence of survivalism was profound. What really got to me was a sense that I had gotten to know these people and now I was getting to know them even more intimately. I remember recently reading "The Indifferent Stars Above" about the Donner Party and hearing the tale of a member of that party who survived for decades after the tragic experience yet never spoke a word about her experience. I can understand that yet I can also appreciate the sense of common stuggle that bonded these Andean survivors. They tell their story as a sort of band of brothers whose only path to survival was to work together in a common cause.
The old adage "Truth is stranger than Fiction" comes alive in "Stranded". What an accomplishment by these young men and what an accomplishment by director Gonzalo Arijon in putting it together. This was one of those rare movies that left me numb and speechless after watching it.