Netflix’s new film Society of the Snow tells a harrowing true story.


The movie is inspired by Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, a plane that crashed in 1972, leaving the surviving members of a rugby team stranded for 72 days in the Andes Mountains.

With barely any food or water, the passengers resorted to cannibalism to survive.

Eventually, two of the survivors – Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa – were able to find help after embarking on an improbable hike into Chile, which took 10 days and saw them climb a 4,650-metre peak and travel 61km without any mountaineering gear.

Thanks to their efforts, the remaining team members were subsequently saved, and the incredible tale of survival became known as the Miracle of the Andes.

More like this

It's not the first adaptation of the story, with Ethan Hawke previously starring in a movie based on the disaster: 1993's Alive.

But how accurate is Society of the Snow compared to previous retellings of the story? Read on for everything you need to know.

Society of the Snow true story: How did the 1972 Andes plane crash?

The plane crashed after the pilot started the aircraft’s descent before the plane had made it out of the Andes, striking a mountain.

The impact tore off both wings and the tail cone. The remaining fuselage then slid down the mountain before landing in a valley at an altitude of approximately 11,500 feet.

Society of the Snow recounts what happens in the aftermath of the crash.

How accurate is Society of the Snow?

Netflix's Society of the Snow might just be the most accurate retelling yet of the Andes disaster – with director JA Bayona explaining that he prepared for the film "like a documentary" and interviewing survivors "for hours".

"We did extensive research," he explained during an exclusive interview with "We interviewed the survivors for hours – many, many hours. So, we really wanted to know all the details in order to capture the story with the maximum level of realism.

"And the survivors were very important," he added. "Not only the survivors, but the families of the deceased, their friends. All of them were fundamental to get all the information to provide the actors and be able to reproduce all those events in front of the camera."

One of those survivors is Carlitos Páez, who was just 18 at the time of the crash, and told that he and the remaining team members are very happy with the film Bayona has made.

"We trust a lot in JA Bayona," he explained, revealing that he had seen the director's earlier film The Impossible, about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and spoken to its real-life subject María Belón about her experiences of working with him.

"We fight a lot with JA, but he's an incredible guy," he laughed. "And no one of the survivors looked at the script; we trusted him, everyone.

"For me, the most important thing about the whole movie is that all the survivors feel the same way about the movie, and also the families of the people that died – they love the movie. So it's a great thing."

Society of the Snow showing a group of men gathered by a crashed plane
Society of the Snow. Netflix

Bayona revealed that he was very nervous before screening the film for the survivors, but his worries were quickly put aside following their reactions.

"When the movie finished for the first time, I think it is the only moment that we got some consensus from them!" he said. "They all love the film, they were very shocked about the realism of the film – they had the feeling of being back there, they were able to recognise every single corner of the landscape.

"They all felt that it was a very intense journey, but they really appreciated the realism."

Society of the Snow vs Alive: How do the Andes plane crash movies differ?

One aspect of the film that marks it out from previous retellings of the story is the decision to focus not just on those who survive, but also on the members of the team who tragically passed away during the 72 days they were stranded.

The most prominent of those is Numa Turcatti (Enzo Vogrincic Roldán), a strong member of the team who serves as the central character for much of the runtime, and Bayona explained that the decision to make Numa the focus came directly from reading Pablo Vierci's 2009 account of the tragedy.

"The press always talk about the survivors, and in a very conventional way talking about heroes – and also very focused on the cannibalism," he explained. "[But] when you read Pablo Vierci's book, it's a much bigger story than that.

"And what I was interested in was how to capture on the screen the spirituality of the book. And I think that, by telling the story through the eyes of Numa, it felt like immediately I had this metaphysical approach."

He added that, during the research process – when he started to ask the survivors about those who had died – some of them were initially rather taken aback, because the questions he was posing were so different from the ones they were accustomed to.

"They're used to telling their story," he explained. "And suddenly, I was asking them a lot about the deaths. And I think that what's been so effective for them – I think that one of the reasons they are so happy with the film is for the first time, after 50 years, the movie allows them to talk about them.

"Because, unconsciously, they were always telling their story. But by forcing them to tell the story of the other ones, I think that gave them, like, the chance of giving something back, and that actually, I think for them has been something really good."

Society of the Snow: Were they really cannibals?

Society of the Snow character leaning on a plane
Society of the Snow. Netflix

Yes. As alluded to above, one of the aspects of the story that, perhaps unsurprisingly, has often attracted much media attention is the fact that the survivors were forced to resort to cannibalism, eating the flesh of those who had already passed away in order to survive.

However, this is portrayed in the film sensitively by Bayona – who revealed that he never wanted the film to be "focused in horror" – and survivor Páez explained that this should not be seen as the focus of the story.

"It's not the main thing of the story, you know?" he said. "And it's incredible, you know, all the philosophy, the discussion [of whether they should eat human meat], even the part when Canessa buries the meat and we come to reality.

"And, for me, it wasn't a big deal. Really, it wasn't. If you ask me if it happens again, I won't stay 10 days waiting for the whole thing. I will do it.

"It's not the main thing. But because of that, you can talk about teamwork, you can talk about solidarity, you can talk about love, you can talk of friends."

So, for Páez, what is the main thing?

"That everybody was equal," he explained. "National Geographic says this is the biggest story in survival, but the principal thing is that we were ordinary people. And I was 18 years old, I was a spoiled boy, you know, my father gave me everything. So I knew nothing.

"In Uruguay, we don't have snow, we don't have mountains. And to stay... you must understand, 72 days, that's a lot, you go for summer for two and a half months and it's difficult to have a good time and enjoy yourself for 72 days! And to be in the situation and even knowing that nobody was looking for us, you know, what's the end?

"There is another story of the miners in Chile, but on the 14th day, everybody knew that they were alive. In our case, on the 10th day, we knew that nobody was looking for us. It was very hard to be in this moment, when the world was continuing, playing football, astronauts going to the Moon.

"And we were in the Andes – that was very difficult. But in a kind of a way, you stop thinking about your family, and then we start playing our story, because we were against nature."

Society of the Snow is now streaming on Netflix. Sign up for Netflix from £4.99 a month. Netflix is also available on Sky Glass and Virgin Media Stream.

Check out more of our Film coverage or visit our TV Guide and Streaming Guide to see what's on tonight.


Try Radio Times magazine today and get 10 issues for only £10 – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to The Radio Times Podcast.