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How photos of the real 1972 Andes plane crash compare to 'Society of the Snow'

Dr. Roberto Canessa, who was among the 16 survivors who endured 72 days in the Andes, said the movie took him "back to the fuselage."
/ Source: TODAY

"Society of the Snow" is earning raves for its accurate depiction of the terrifying 1972 plane crash in the Andes mountains that involved a Uruguayan rugby team.

The new Netflix drama, directed by J.A. Bayona, tells the story of the disaster, which happened in October 1972 when Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashed into the Andes mountains, immediately killing 12 passengers while injuring others.

Over the next 72 days, the survivors, whose numbers continued to dwindle during the harrowing ordeal, were forced to endure the area's freezing temperatures and avalanches, with little shelter or food.

They were eventually forced to eat the flesh of their dead teammates to stay alive until a rescue team reached them more than two months later.

“Society of the Snow,” which is based on the book of the same name by Pablo Vierci, is earning praise from the crash’s survivors for its painstakingly accurate recreation of the disaster.

Below, see how the movie compares to photos from the disaster and rescue efforts, and what the real-life people thought of the depiction.

'Society of the Snow' is based on a book by Pablo Vierci featuring the survivors' own accounts

For his book, Vierci relied on his own first-person interviews with the survivors. Vierci attended the same school as the rugby players and nearly joined them on their doomed flight, according to Variety.

Director Bayona told The Hollywood Reporter in September 2023 that he bought the rights to Vierci's book back in 2012.

He then set out to interview the crash's survivors himself, and encouraged his actors to speak to them as well.

"We had over 100 hours of recordings. And then we kept in contact with the survivors throughout the shoot. All the actors were in contact with the survivors and the families of the deceased," Bayona explained.

"So the shoot became like an exploration looking to answer these big questions. We were writing the story every day on set," he added.

Survivors of the Uruguayan plane crash in the Ande
Survivors of the Uruguayan plane crash in the Andes in the fuselage of the wrecked aircraft on shortly after rescuers reached them.Shutterstock
Society of the Snow
"Society of the Snow" recreated a famous photo.Netflix

The cast and crew traveled to the Andes mountains to shoot the movie

Bayona told THR that his cast and crew traveled several times to the Andes to shoot the movie.

“My first journey was really because I wanted to know exactly what it was like to be there and what they went through. It was more about understanding the context. You cannot tell this story without telling the context,” the director explained.

The second time I went I was already with my cameras and some actors. We only shot few scenes, because it’s a very dangerous place,” he continued. “And we were there in the spring, when they were actually there. Everything had to be very much under control because there was the risk of avalanches all the time.”

Andes Plane Crash
A photograph of the crashed Fairchild F-227 plane is on display at a museum in Chile. Elvis Gonzalez / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock
A photograph of the crashed Fairchild F-227 plane and the survivors, currently on display at a museum in Chile.
A photograph of the crashed Fairchild F-227 plane and the survivors, currently on display at a museum in Chile.Elvis Gonzalez / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock
Society of the Snow
"Society of the Snow" recreated a famous photo of the Netflix
Society of the Snow
Imagining the moment of rescue.Netflix

The survivors responded to seeing the movie

Bayona told THR that he screened “Society of the Snow” for the crash’s survivors months before the movie’s Dec. 22 premiere on Netflix.

Plane Crash Survivors After Rescue
Chilean Army officers escort Uruguayan rugby player Fernando Parrado (center, left photo). On the right, Carlos Paez reunites with his father..Bettmann Archive
Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa
Nando Parrado (left) and Roberto Canessa (center) at a press conference.Evening Standard / Getty Images

“As you can imagine, I was very nervous. But I think it was the first time that we got a unanimous answer from all of them. Because they’re all so different — a very solid group but each has their own personality and are very strong characters,” he said.

“But they really liked how close it was to the reality of the story. They had the impression of being back in the mountains, because they recognized the geography,” he added.

One survivor, Dr. Roberto Canessa, talked about screening the movie with NBC News reporter Tom Llamas in November 2023.

Watching “Society of the Snow” was emotional, said Canessa, just 19 at the time of the crash, because unlike past retellings of the story, Netflix got all the details right.

“I was immersed in that place again,” Canessa said of viewing the film. “I was back to the fuselage.”