First Thai cave rescue film due out on mission anniversary

BANGKOK (AFP) – A Thai-born director who took just weeks to shoot the first film about the dramatic cave rescue of the football team said his focus is on authenticity and the mission’s “unsung” heroes, with book publishers and Hollywood studios jostling to make their versions of the saga.

Tom Waller said The Cave, which is aiming for a Thai release for the July anniversary of the operation, will be a “genuine” retelling of the gripping mission to extract the 12 boys and their coach from the waterlogged Tham Luang cave.

Its cast features more than a dozen of the real-life rescue heroes as well as extras such as the cooks who provided food round-the-clock food as officials and the world’s media massed at the cave entrance.

The ‘Wild Boars’ spent more than a fortnight trapped in the dark before divers rescued them in an mission of unprecedented complexity – diving the boys out through twisting passageways while they were heavily sedated.

Waller, a Thai citizen with an Irish father and whose work includes The Last Executioner, said he did not immediately think he would take on the project despite its real-life dramatic arc.

Canadian cave diver Erik Brown is among the real-life rescue heroes appearing in the film. – AFP

“I thought it was going to be just a magnet for vultures who wanted to cash-in,” he told AFP at the office for De Warrenne Pictures in Bangkok.

But then he started dwelling on all the people involved in the extraction, the volunteer spirit of the rescue, and the “unsung heroes that weren’t in the newspapers”.

“So for me it was almost a question of either make the film now or shut up and wait until Hollywood’s made the film and enjoy it like everyone else.”

Waller hopes his Thai background may also give him an edge over established foreign directors, while the swift turnaround meant memories are still fresh in the minds of those who took part in both the rescue and the movie.

But challenges remained during the shoot.

The real Tham Luang cave, in northern Chiang Rai province, is off limits so locations recreating the waterlogged, claustrophobic conditions had to be scouted across the country.

The Cave also broadbrushes over some of the scandalous strands of the drama, which have led to lawsuits and angry social media squabbles.

“People keep asking, who is playing Elon Musk?” Waller said, referring to the Tesla CEO’s attempt to provide a submarine and his legal battles with a rescuer whom he insulted on Twitter.