‘Free Solo’ Directors Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin Set Amazon Plane Crash Survival Story as Next Doc (EXCLUSIVE)

After making the leap to narrative filmmaking last year with “Nyad,” Oscar winners Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin have returned to their documentary roots and are currently at work in the edit suite prepping their next doc feature — “Lost in the Amazon” (working title), about how four Indigenous children survived for 40 days in the Amazon jungle after a plane crash in 2023. The story of their disappearance and eventual recovery transfixed the global media.

Vasarhelyi and Chin co-directed and produced the film with Colombian filmmaker Juan Camilo Cruz (“In Her Hands,” “Messi’s World Cup”) for National Geographic.

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The feature docu will tell the story of the struggle for survival of the four children — who ranged in age from 11 months to 13 years — in the guerilla-held jungles of Colombia after a plane they were aboard crashed and killed their mother. The children survived for 40 days in the deep Amazonian rainforest using their Indigenous knowledge of the jungle and the daring national effort to rescue them. Vasarhelyi, Chin and Cruz gained exclusive access to the children: Lesly and Soleiny Jacobombaire Mucutuy and Tien and Cristin Ranoque Mucutuy.

In the film, the siblings share their story publicly for the first time. Through firsthand accounts, the docu charts the journey of the children as they struggle against the elements, unaware of an unprecedented search and rescue collaboration between Indigenous groups and the military to save them. The film will also feature the stories of the Indigenous and military teams who joined forces to rescue the children, giving comprehensive access to every major participant. The parties involved have also collaborated on a trust to benefit the children.

“As a Colombian-born filmmaker, I’m incredibly proud to tell this story, which shines a light on the people who call the Amazon home, and the wealth of wisdom it holds,” says Cruz. “I hope that this film will make us all think about the real value of the Amazon and the people who live there, as well as showcasing the incredible bravery of these four children, who are truly incredible heroes. I see this story as an example for all of us that it is possible to work together for something bigger than ourselves, something that this world desperately needs.”

“Lost in the Amazon” marks Vasarhelyi and Chin’s latest collaboration with National Geographic. Since their film “Free Solo” won the Oscar in 2019 for best documentary feature, the pair have worked with Nat Geo on several nonfiction projects including “The Rescue” and most recently the docuseries “Photographer.”

“Our films have a common theme of the indomitability of the human spirit and its power to move, inspire and remind us all of what we are capable of when differences can be put aside,” Vasarhelyi and Chin said in a joint statement. “‘Lost in the Amazon’  is the epitome of this message.”

Vasarhelyi and Chin’s Little Monster Films produced the the doc alongside Simon Chinn (“Man on Wire,” “Searching for Sugar Man”) and Jonathan Chinn (“LA 92,” “TINA”) of Lightbox. Guillermo Galdos of Pacha Films (“From Tenancingo to New York”) and Mark Grieco also served as producers. Hollman Morris is executive producing on behalf of Señal Colombia. Lightbox and Pacha Films helped the filmmakers gain exclusive access to the children.

“Chai and Jimmy’s virtuosic approach to telling stories about people who push the limits of human potential — Alex Honnold in ‘Free Solo’ and the cave divers in ‘The Rescue’ — will be on full display in ‘Lost in the Amazon,'” says National Geographic exec VP of Documentary Films Carolyn Bernstein. “We are delighted that talented Colombian filmmaker Juan Camilo Cruz will be partnering with them along with our friends at Lightbox. This is truly a documentary film dream team. I can’t think of a more thrilling combination of storytelling talent to bring the remarkable journey of these determined and heroic children to the world.”

Currently in post production, the doc will be available exclusively on National Geographic and Disney+/Hulu. A release date has not been set.

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