In 'Stranded,' Survival As A Team Effort In 1972, a plane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team crashed in the Andes. Of the 45 members, 16 survived — on grit, resolve and the flesh of their dead companions. For the first time, they tell their own story.
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In 'Stranded,' Survival As A Team Effort

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In 'Stranded,' Survival As A Team Effort

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In 'Stranded,' Survival As A Team Effort

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

The snowy mountains of the Andes figure in a new documentary film. "Stranded: I've Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains," has an amazing story to go along with its long title. Los Angeles Times and Morning Edition film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: "Stranded" is an exceptional film. It tells one of the 20th century's best-known tales of survival, and shows that we haven't really known it at all. Who hasn't heard the story of the Uruguayan airliner that slammed into the Andes in 1972? Who doesn't know about the 16 young men who survived for 72 days because they did the unthinkable and ate the flesh of those who died? Their story, under the title "Alive," became both an internationally best-selling book and a Hollywood movie starring Ethan Hawke.

(Soundbite of movie "Alive")

Unidentified Man #1: When she's dead and I climb out of these goddamn mountains back to my father, back to my room and my house.

Unidentified Man #2: How you're going to do that? You'd freeze to death.

Unidentified Man #1: Not if I wear enough clothes, I wouldn't.

Unidentified Man #2: You'd starve to death.

Unidentified Man #3: You can't climb a mountain on a little piece of chocolate and a sip of wine.

Unidentified Man #1: Then I'll cut some meat off the pilots.

TURAN: But it is only now, some 35 years after the fact, that the people who made it out alive agreed to talk on camera, with breathtaking candor about what they went through.

Unidentified Man: (Foreign language spoken)

TURAN: The stories do not shortchange the horror of the situation. But out of disaster can come the purity of transcendence. The survivors' experience turns out to have been a surprisingly spiritual one, a story of near-reincarnation and intimate religious communion. One reason these men felt safe unburdening themselves was that the director, Gonzalo Arijon, was also a boyhood friend. He has added several things to the compelling interviews, including a delicate score and haunting, dreamlike re-creations that heighten the drama.

Roberto Canessa, one of the two men who walked out of the Andes to save the group, was at "Stranded's" Sundance premiere, and it's no exaggeration to say that what he experienced turned him into a figure of enormous charisma. Asked to reflect on it all, he replied quietly, make plans for 100 years, but you must be ready to die at any moment. Words to live by, and a film impossible to forget.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: The movie is "Stranded." Kenneth Turan reviews movies for Morning Edition and the Los Angeles Times, and you can see clips from "Stranded" and find more reviews of this week's new movies at npr.org.

(Soundbite of music)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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