Stranded: I've Come From A Plane That Crashed On The Mountains has one of the longest titles — and one of the strangest stories — of any film this year.
It's exceptional in other ways, too: 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.
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.
They speak of knowing the plane was going down, of the physical and psychological experience of the crash itself.
They speak of realizing that they had survived while their mothers and their sisters had not. They speak of their feelings when they realized the search had been called off.
The stories they tell do not shortchange the horror of the situation they found themselves in. 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 elements 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.