Disaster Survivors' Tales Grip Hollywood Film Fest
Los Angeles, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 29th Oct, 2023) Gustavo Zerbino and Mamadou Kouassi have two major things in common.
They both survived horrifying ordeals -- one endured 72 days in the frozen Andes by eating human flesh after an infamous plane crash; the other suffered brutal imprisonment, extortion and slavery on the African migrant trail to Europe.
"This movie lets you contact with the deep part of your soul, and feel exactly the spirit we had in the mountains," said an emotional Zerbino.
Thirty-three of the 45 on board survived the initial impact, but only 16 were left after a ten-week ordeal on an Andean glacier without food, shelter, or even warm clothes in -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius) weather, at an altitude of some 12,000 feet (3,600 meters).
The survivors had to resort to eating the flesh of their dead comrades to stay alive.
"In the Andes, we needed to build a caring society. When all the things belonged to everyone, and the only goal was to survive," said Zerbino.
"We did not fight each other, because we were fighting death," he told AFP after the screening.
Director Matteo Garrone, best known for mafia drama "Gomorrah," tells the harrowing story of African migrants before they have even reached the perilous Mediterranean crossings that occupy most Western headlines.
"We spent about one month [going] through the desert. You can see people dying in front of you, children dying because of a lack of water. And you cannot help," he told AFP before the screening.
"We Black people, they used to catch us and put us in prison," he said.
The film portrays graphic scenes of torture, and Kouassi recalls fellow inmates "killed in the prison, in the cells."
He escaped only after being sold "like a slave" to a local who needed workers to complete masonry work on his property, and eventually freed him.
Despite the trauma of reliving their ordeals, both men are helping to promote their films, and expressed hope that audiences will take away important messages.
For Zerbino, his story is "not a tragedy, [though] it has a lot of tragedy; it is not a miracle, [though] it has a lot of miracles."
Kouassi hopes that his film can help "people understand what we faced before we arrived in Europe," and even lead to a loosening of the travel restrictions on people from poorer countries that force them to risk their lives with illegal crossings in the first place.
"It is a complete disaster," he said.