In 1972, a Uruguayan Rugby team, on their way to a match in Chile, crashed high in the Andes. A search yielded no results, and they were presumed dead. Two months later, two emaciated survivors hiked out of the Andes, startling shepherds and statesmen alike by saying that 14 of them were still alive in the mountains, waiting to be rescued.
In 1993, Frank Marshall and Ethan Hawke made a movie about these survivors called “Alive.” In reviewing that movie, Roger Ebert said, “There are some stories you simply can’t tell. The story of the Andes survivors may be one of them.”
But maybe they can tell their own story. “Stranded,” as you probably guessed, is another movie abou that experience, but this time it’s a documentary, and it’s narrated entirely by the survivors themselves. Bucking the trend — documentaries that star the documentarian (see Michael Moore and Morgan Spurlock, among many others–) first time filmmaker Gonzalo Arijon never adds so much as a narrative subtitle to the story these remarkable men tell. His work is done in extensive interviews and masterful editing – the men seem to be able to complete each other’s sentences, and the stories they tell of their experience mesh together impeccably. On top of that, they’re surprisingly eloquent, skilled storytellers and there are moments of “Stranded” that are nothing short of poetic.
You may remember that they stayed alive by eating the frozen bodies of their dead companions. It’s nothing short of remarkable to hear these men explain this decision, the respect and love and sense of the sacred that went into it. I, like Ethan Hawke and Frank Marshall, can’t do their story justice. If you want to know what happened during those two months stranded in the mountains, you need to hear it straight from the survivors. Now, thanks to “Stranded,” you have the chance.