Ready-made movie fodder, the story of a Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crash-landed in the Andes in 1972 has already inspired a pair of film adaptations. But neither the gruesomely exploitative 1976 Mexican quickie Survive! nor Hollywood’s weirdly wholesome 1993 Alive was particularly insightful, which makes this poignant, contemplative documentary all the more welcome.
The hook, of course, is that the survivors resorted to cannibalizing their dead comrades in order to stay alive prior to being rescued 72 days after the crash. This gives director Gonzalo Arijon’s footage of the present-day lives of a few of them an extra charge, and underscores his thematic inquiry—what would any of us have done in their place?—at least as effectively as Florencia Di Concilio’s moody ambient score.
Arijon generally sticks to the tried-and-true interview/archival material/dramatic re-creation format, shaking things up some by returning a few of the ex-teammates and their family members to the scene of the crash. What makes Stranded reverberate, though, are the piercing ironies that surface—from one interviewee’s casual snacking as he discusses his ordeal (in the mountain valley where it happened, no less) to the ritualistic, eateth-my-flesh, drinketh-my-blood connotations of the rugby team’s moniker: the Old Christians.