Thai cave divers to star in film depicting real-life rescue

Movie about Tham Luang cave operation to save schoolboys and coach one of several announced

Four divers who took part in the rescue of 12 Thai schoolboys and their football coach after they were trapped in a cave will play themselves in one of several films positioning themselves as the definitive account of the event that attracted worldwide attention last summer.

Dive instructors Erik Brown from Canada, and Mikko Paasi from Finland, Belgian rescue diver Jim Warny and Chinese cave diving instructor Tan Xiaolong will all appear in The Cave, one of half a dozen film and documentary projects dedicated to the 2018 rescue operation from the Tham Luang cave.

The independent film will be directed by Thai-Irish director Tom Waller, who said it will be “authentic” because it’s told from the point of view of “the unsung heroes” and will feature Chinese dialects, Thai, and English.

“I wanted the film to be an honest portrayal of the events that took place at the Tham Luang cave, and decided to go for a more authentic approach, taking the story from the point of view of some of the unsung heroes who took part in the rescue,” Waller said.

“Like the rescue itself, I wanted the cast to be made up of both local and international characters, speaking in their own tongue.”

Waller has previously spoken about the difficulty of making the film in Thailand, claiming that officials who were involved in the rescue have been reluctant to speak with him.

“You can get accurate information from the foreign participants because they’re not controlled by the Thai government,” he added. “That’s really where my story comes in. I’ve got firsthand information from a lot of the unsung heroes of the rescue, so my film really concentrates on their untold stories.”

In April, Netflix confirmed that Crazy Rich Asians’ Jon M Chu and the Thai director Nattawut ‘Baz’ Poonpiriya will co-direct its project – which could be a miniseries or a film – with Chu claiming it will be a “unique multilingual format” and show how “tragic human drama transformed into a beautiful, inspirational story of human beings saving other human beings”.

The question of whether Hollywood or local Thai filmmakers should tackle the retelling of the rescue has consistently come up when new films are announced, with some filmmakers calling for action to stop a “whitewashed” version of the event from being made.

“I refuse to let Hollywood #whitewashout the Thai Cave rescue story!” Chu tweeted. “No way. Not on our watch. That won’t happen or we’ll give them hell.”

Chu also claimed the involvement of Poonpiriya was vital because he understood “the nuances and details of the local community in which this story unfolds”.

Brown and Paasi were part of the team that rescued the final group of boys from the cave after the members of the Wild Boar football team were taught to breathe using scuba masks and how to move through challenging narrow tunnels.

Warny was one of the team who brought out Ekapol Chantawong, the boys’ football coach who will be played by Thai film star Ekawat Niratvorapanya in The Cave; while Xiaolong was part of the team who prepared for the three rescue dives that would eventually free the trapped boys in July 2018.

The Cave, which is released later this year, will compete with a film by Pure Flix, a Christian production outfit. A documentary by National Geographic about the rescue is also planned and there’s also a Universal film, which was announced after the studio secured the life rights for Chantawong, Dr Richard Harris and Dr Craig Challen, who played a key role in the rescue.

Shortly after the rescue, Thailand’s culture minister, Vira Rojpojchanarat announced the formation of a special committee to oversee the accuracy of the films and ensure minimal environmental impact.


Lanre Bakare

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Thai cave rescue: Navy Seals say mission came 'close to disaster'
Rescuers who freed Wild Boars team from Tham Luang cave tell of dangers that included heavy rain and low oxygen

Michael Safi and Veena Thoopkrajae in Mae Sai

11, Jul, 2018 @6:33 PM

Article image
Thai navy Seals pay tribute to diver who died in cave rescue
Saman Kunan’s colleagues recall his skill and dedication as his body is taken to Bangkok

Mattha Busby

06, Jul, 2018 @9:25 AM

Article image
'We don't know how it worked': the inside story of the Thai cave rescue
Rescuers describe the doubts and pressures that assailed them as they pulled 12 boys and their coach to safety

Michael Safi in Mae Sai

14, Jul, 2018 @4:00 AM

Article image
Thai cave rescuers consider options as search continues
Divers could teach boys to scuba and lead them out but expert says it would be risky

Peter Beaumont

26, Jun, 2018 @4:19 PM

Article image
Monsoon rains may force Thai cave rescue attempt this week
Rescue of boys may have to take place before downpours in next few days, says minister

Benjamin Haas and Emma Graham-Harrison and Jacob Goldberg in Mae Sai

03, Jul, 2018 @10:12 PM

Article image
Plans to rescue trapped Thai boys rapidly developing
Rescuers to partially drain cave and use ropes, oxygen tanks and masks to help free boys

Michael Safi in Mae Sai

04, Jul, 2018 @3:06 PM

Article image
British divers at heart of Thai cave rescue among best in world
Rick Stanton and John Volanthen, among the first to reach the boys, have more than 35 years experience in extreme cave dives and rescues

Eleanor Ainge Roy

03, Jul, 2018 @3:39 AM

Article image
Thai cave rescue: boys 'learning to dive' before new storm
As new videos from inside cave emerge, Thai rescue chief says storm could ‘fully flood’ it

Michael Safi and Jacob Goldberg in Mae Sai

04, Jul, 2018 @6:19 AM

Article image
Thai cave rescue: coach and stateless boys may be made citizens
Group of four, from Myanmar border region, have limited rights and access to services

Jacob Goldberg in Mae Sai

12, Jul, 2018 @12:30 PM

Article image
Thai cave rescue boys set to address media for first time
12 boys to be discharged from hospital a day early after rescue from Tham Luang cave

Hannah Ellis-Petersen South-east Asia correspondent

17, Jul, 2018 @1:43 PM