La Sociedad de la Nieve (Society of the Snow)

INTERVIEW: Real-Life Survivor Roberto Canessa Talks ‘Society of the Snow’ & What Survival Taught Him


J.A. Bayona’s Society of the Snow (La Sociedad de la Nieve) is the moment once more as it lands on Netflix to critical acclaim. The movie, which tells the story of the crash of the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 in the Andes, is known by many as the “Miracle of the Andes.” And Remezcla had a chance to talk to real-life survivor Roberto Canessa, one of the main people the movie focuses on, about how this story needed to be told and the care put into their story of survival.

“I believe that justice was done,” Canessa said of Society of the Snow, explaining that “the world was dazzled by those who had survived, but many of us survived thanks to the work of others.” The story the movie is based on is, after all, a story of teamwork and friendship in the face of insurmountable circumstances.

Canessa went on to add that it was “very good for the families of those who did not return to know that yes, they died, but it was not in vain.” And for those that survived, there’s deep satisfaction in that.

Previous adaptations, like the 1993 movie Alive focused more on Canessa and Nando Parrado, the two who climbed 15,260 feet and walked for approximately 38 miles and 10 days to seek help. But Canessa didn’t focus on that himself during our conversation. Instead, he discussed the lesson he learned from these events and that he carries with him when things get bad.

“When you get discouraged you look back and see everything you’ve walked and say well, I’m not doing that bad.” Not just that, that when things get really bad, you can take stock of what you’ve done and think “I am capable of walking a little more and a little more and a little more and then we were out of the mountains.”

Canessa, who has a cameo as the doctor who receives the actor playing him as he walks into the hospital near the end of the movie, shared that “receiving Canessa was very emotional,” adding “Look how valuable that 19-year-old boy who crossed the Andes walking is. The truth is that I totally admire him.” The over fifty-year separation from that boy even allowed Canessa to joke. “I don’t think he has anything to do with me, right? So good, receiving him as a doctor there in the hospital. It was very nice.”

And as for the movie itself, and what it was like for the actors recreating something Canessa himself had to live through, Canessa shared that director J.A. Bayona took the actors “to the mountain range, killed them from the cold, killed them from hunger.” It was as close to reality as it was possible. 

“They lost about 30 kilos each. In other words, they began to suffer what we were suffering,” Canessa shared. “And I think that is felt in the film, you can see how weak they are. In other words, he managed to create the atmosphere of the fuselage in the film and that is transmitted through the actors.”

Society of the Snow is now available to stream on Netflix.