When Society of the Snow director J.A. Bayona (The Impossible; A Monster Calls) set out to tell the true story of notoriously horrific Andes plane crash, he wanted to give sensitive and authentic voice to the survivors and families of the dead. And to do that, the script needed to be in Spanish.
On Tuesday, following the film’s Oscar nomination in the Best International Feature Film category, Bayona told Deadline he believes young audiences have been influenced by the common use of subtitles on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram, and are now much more willing to see them in a film.
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“One thing that we are very surprised is the amount of young people who are embracing the film,” he said. “I think it’s actually the fact that they are more used to watching content with subtitles on the internet and on platforms, and also the fact that the characters in the story are their age.”
Society of the Snow has gone on to lead Netflix’s top 10 global chart.
“It’s been 10 years to find the financing for this film,” Bayona told Deadline. “The major problem was the fact it was in Spanish with a big budget, which is not the big budget of an American film. So it’s been hard because somehow the market doesn’t accept this kind of product. So going with Netflix to a massive audience and suddenly see your movie become number one in almost a hundred territories from day one, it’s a great sign of hope to me.”
Society of the Snow, based on Pablo Vierci’s book of the same name, follows the harrowing real-life story of a young Uruguayan rugby team whose plane crashed in the frozen Andes in 1972. Over 72 days, the survivors would contend with starvation, exposure, hypothermia and two avalanches, until only 16 remained. Ultimately, they were forced to make an agonizing choice: consume the bodies of the dead or die themselves.
While there has long been morbid fascination over the events following the crash, Bayona set out to honor Vierci’s telling of the story, and to accurately and sensitively portray all involved. “What I love about Pablo’s approach is this story was the way he always looked at the story in a compassionate way from a human perspective,” Bayona said. “I think a story like this one resonates in a world right now full of conflict — having a story that gives us the best image that we can get from human beings in the worst situation, I think it’s something pretty inspiring, and especially for young people, this message is very relevant nowadays.”
Bayona believes the wide reach on the Netflix chart, and not only the International Film Oscar nomination, but another for Makeup and Hairstyling, will be a boost for the international film sphere as a whole. “I do think this is going to change things and help things to move forward with foreign language film,” he said. “I want an audience less scared of watching a movie with subtitles in different languages and with different kinds of faces. The response so far all over the world has been fantastic.”
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