'Society of the Snow' Is a Harrowing Story of Survival, and It's a True Story

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Jan. 9 2024, Published 10:08 a.m. ET

The cast of 'Society of the Snow' sitting in the fuselage.
Source: Netflix

Netflix has never shied away from taking real-life events and spinning them into highly successful movies or TV shows. In 2023, movies like Maestro and shows like Dahmer proved that all different kinds of true stories can make for fascinating material when adapted into fiction.

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Society of the Snow, one of Netflix's first releases of 2024, tells the harrowing story of a plane crash in the 1970s and its aftermath. Now, many want to know whether the story told in the film is true, and if it is, what the events in the movie are based on.

The cast of 'Society of the Snow' looking for a plane.
Source: Netflix
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Is 'Society of the Snow' based on a true story?

Society of the Snow tells the story of how 16 people, members of the Uruguayan rugby team and their supporters, managed to band together to survive 72 days in one of the harshest environments on the planet. The movie is based on the 1972 plane crash of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, which left them stranded in the Andes mountains in frigid temperatures and with nothing to eat.

The movie is based on Pablo Vierci's 2008 book of the same name, and it was partially shot in the location where the plane actually crashed. The crash is so well known that it has already been brought to the screen once before, in 1993's Alive. This is the first time that survivors of the crash have allowed their real names to be used and this movie also features characters speaking Spanish.

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How did the passengers survive the accident?

12 people were killed when the plane crashed into the Andes, and a number of the 33 remaining passengers were injured. Five succumbed to their injuries during the first night, and one more died a week later. The temperatures in the Andes were sub-zero, so the survivors built a makeshift shelter out of the fuselage and then began to ration the little food and wine they could find on the plane.

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Their food ran out after about a week, and the survivors ultimately had to resort to eating their dead in order to stay alive. One survivor, Roberto Canessa, told Time that resorting to cannibalism was "humiliating."

"You are eating a dead person and the person is your friend and you wonder, 'Should I do this? Or should I let myself die?" he said. "But I have seen how mothers cry when they lose their sons and I didn't want my mother to go through that."

The survivors saw several rescue planes fly overhead, but none of them could see the fuselage of the white plane against the backdrop of the white snow. Before they were rescued, numerous disasters struck, including two back-to-back avalanches that killed eight people. Three more would die in the month before they were rescued, leaving just 16 alive. They were rescued after two of them decided to venture out to find civilization in Chile and ultimately succeeded.

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