Society of Snow true vs fiction
Latin Times/Courtesy Netflix

MIAMI - Few stories capture the raw essence of human endurance and the will to survive as poignantly as J.A. Bayona's latest offering on Netflix. "The Society of the Snow," set to make waves in the international film community, is not just a story of survival. Based on the harrowing true events of the 1972 Andes plane crash, the Spanish director, known for his emotionally charged storytelling, brings to life a tale that intertwines the brutal reality of survival with a deep exploration of the human psyche.

"La sociedad de la nieve," as it's called originally, has already made movie history. With a budget of $66 million, the production has become Spain's most expensive feature film to date. It surpassed 2009's "Ágora," which had an investment just short of $55 million.

The recent title, which arrived in the Netflix catalog on January 4th, has already been shortlisted in four categories for the 2024 Oscars: Best International Film, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, and Best Visual Effects. It is also in the run for this Sunday's Golden Globes.

Whether you are settling to watch "The Society of the Snow," or even if you have already seen it, here are several key insights that will deepen your understanding and appreciation of the film:

A movie based on a real life tragedy

The story is based on the catastrophic crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in 1972, a disaster that left the survivors stranded in the Andes for 72 days. This historical context is crucial, as it sets the stage for an extraordinary tale of survival against all odds

"The Snow Society" is an adaptation a book

The story has been told in a dozen books and three films. Bayona's version is based on the book "I had to survive," written by survivor Roberto Canessa and writer Pablo Vierci. This book, renamed now as "The Society of the Snow" unites various perspectives and accounts, providing a comprehensive view of the tragedy and its aftermath and is considered the definitive chronicle of this event.

The Netflix film focuses on the survivors

Casting director María Laura Bearch explained that one of the highlights of the process was the possibility to work alongside the survivors and the families of those who died.

"There was a spiritual richness to the encounters they had with the actors, and it was critical for them to assume their role within this story.The entire process demanded arduous research, reading, reflecting, exchange, etc. We knew that it wasn't just about acting. You had to feel, convey, and be," she recalled.

The main characters and the actors who play them are:

Numa Turcatti: Enzo Vogrincic Roldán

Numa Turcatti was a passenger on Flight 571 He was considered to be one of the "toughest and fittest" to endure the crash.

Roberto Canessa: Matías Recalt

Roberto Canessa was one of the survivors and his story is the one told in "Snow Society." Matías Recalt is known for his work in the Netflix's series "Apache: The Life of Carlos Tevez."

Nando Parrado: Agustín Pardella

Nando Parrado was also one of the survivors of Flight 571, having been traveling with his family and friends.

The three stages of "La sociedad de la nieve"

In a special document shared by Netflix, the filmmakers involved explained how difficult the shooting was. They broke down the movie into three parts, or stages.

The first stage took place in the Valle de las lágrimas, or Valley of Tears in the Andes, Argentina, where the plane fell. A team specializing in mountain shoots moved to the difficult-to-reach area to film the scenery around the clock and in different lighting conditions in order to capture the intensity in the most realistic manner possible.

"The team spent four weeks in the Valley of Tears. We photographed it in all possible lighting conditions. Before traveling, we developed an app, a type of videogame, so that J could plan what we would need for the movie. That prior planning allowed us to mark out optics, hours of light, camera altitude, positions within the valley, etc. We could 'know' the mountain without even setting foot on it. That way, when we arrived, we knew what shots we had to do and when exactly we needed to do them," explained Laura Pedro (Visual Effects Supervisor.)

The second stage of shooting was done during the Spanish ski season in Sierra Nevada, Granada. Lluna Juvé, location director, explains the process of choosing this location."We were looking for a snowy location to be able to place the replicas of the plane in an area that looked like the Valley of Tears. We looked all over the world, from the Alps to South America, but we realized that we wanted to make the movie in Spain. We also went to see the Pyrenees, but in the end we opted for the Sierra Nevada," she said.

The third stage of shooting was done in various locations in Chile and Uruguay, where the beginning of the film was shot (introduction to characters) as well as the end (the return of the survivors). The shooting of "Society of the Snow" continued in Madrid with the recreation (at Netflix's studios in Tres Cantos) of the fatal air disaster and culminated with the return of part of the team from the Valley of Tears in the Andes.

Bayona worked on the story for 10 years

This is the first Spanish-language film by the Spanish director in 15 years. He interviewed the survivors and their families directly. Bayona premiered the movie in Montevideo, in their presence.

Where to Watch

"La sociedad de la nieve" is available on Netflix. Its official synopsis reads: "In 1972, the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 carrying a rugby team to Chile crashed into a glacier in the heart of the Andes. Only 29 of the 45 passengers survived the impact, and in one of the world's most hostile environments, they were forced to resort to extreme measures to stay alive.

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