Netflix has confirmed that Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M Chu and the Thai director Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya will co-direct its story about the Thai cave rescue, as several rival projects compete to tell of the real-life ordeal of a junior football team and their coach who were trapped underground for more than two weeks last summer.
Netflix has not confirmed whether the to-be-named production would be a film or a miniseries, but Chu said it would be in a “unique multilingual format” and show how “tragic human drama transformed into a beautiful, inspirational story of human beings saving other human beings”.
“This is an opportunity for me as a filmmaker – and also a Thai citizen – to write a thank-you letter to the rest of the world,” added Poonpiriya, who directed the Thai heist thriller Bad Genius.
Other films about the rescue include an independent called The Cave, while Universal is also developing a film after it secured the life rights for the boys’ coach Ekkapol Chantawong, as well as for Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen, who were instrumental in the rescue. National Geographic also has a documentary about the story in the works.
The various film projects have triggered debate about who should tell the story of the football team: Hollywood or local Thai filmmakers.
Chu initially announced his intention to produce a film about the story only 48 hours after the rescue was completed, quickly following the first slated film project – by Pure Flix, a Christian production outfit – which promised an “inspirational” film.
“I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story!” Chu wrote on Twitter in July. “No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell.”
Chu said that Poonpiriya’s involvement in the project was vital because he understood “the nuances and details of the local community in which this story unfolds”.
Netflix is partnering with SK Global Entertainment after they secured the rights from the 13 Tham Luang Company – the firm set up to represent the 12 boys who were trapped in the Tham Luang caves near Chiang Rai in Thailand.