A little slice of Chile that was really Chilly!: Spain’s Sierra Nevada stands in for the Andes

WHEN Spanish director JA Bayona needed some snowy high mountain scenery for his new movie, he knew where to look.

The Jurassic World film-maker headed to the Sierra Nevada to set one of the most harrowing survival stories ever told.

The blockbuster movie recalls the 1972 ordeal of the Uruguayan rugby team who survived a plane crash in the Andes, in part by eating their dead colleagues.

Largely set in the soaring Sierra Nevada mountains, filming took place through last winter and this Spring in Pradollano and nearby Guejar Sierra.

Called Society of the Snows, the producers from Netflix used the wreckage of three Fairchild Hiller FH-227 passenger aircrafts.

Society Of The Snow Netflix
Still from Society of the Snow. Photo: Netflix

One of them was installed in the isolated La Laguna valley area, popular with experienced skiers.

A challenging place to install a set, sited at over 2,000 metres, it caused various hardships for the cast and crew.

In particular they endured volatile weather, extremely low temperatures and, in some cases, altitude sickness. 

“It was like making a Herzog with three units and 40 actors,” said Belen Atienza, who worked alongside Sandra Hermida, who worked on Bayona’s ‘The Impossible’ and ‘A Monster Calls’.

The Laguna set was chosen for its reliable snow and being roughly the same altitude as the Andes crash site. 

“They took over various areas in the resort, but it was very much in secret,” said a source at Cetursa, which runs the resort.

“It is definitely a very big production costing millions and it was very good news for the skiing resort.”

The most exciting development was the re-construction of the crashed plane inside a huge hangar at the top of Pradollano village.

While the main actors are from Argentina and Uruguay, producers hired dozens of extras from the Granada area.

An advert looking for locals ‘with long hair and with heights between 166 and 188cm’ went in various regional newspapers. They also wanted ‘walkers, mountain climbers between the ages of 18 and 43’.

Based on the book La sociedad de la Nieve by Pablo Vierci, the film charts the true story of Uruguayan Air Force flight 571 which crashed on a glacier.

Famous from the 1993 film Alive, only 29 of the 45 passengers survived the crash, finding themselves in one of the world’s most hostile environments.

Barcelona born director JA Bayona said: “It is great to be telling one of the most remembered events of the 20th century, with all the complexity of a story that gives so much relevance to the survivors as well as to those who never returned from the mountains.”

The film was shot in chronological order to allow for the actors to transform from strapping young rugby players to emaciated victims. 

It finished filming in Chile this Autumn and Winter and is due out in cinemas next year.

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