Di­rec­tor vows dank thrills in res­cue saga

The Korea Times - - CULTURE -

BANGKOK (AP) — Their story gripped the world: de­ter­mined divers rac­ing against time and wa­ter to res­cue 12 boys and their soc­cer coach trapped for more than two weeks in a flooded cave deep in­side a north­ern Thai moun­tain.

The ordeal in late June and early July 2018 had barely ended when filmmakers be­gan their own race to get the nail-bit­ing drama onto cinema screens. The first of those projects will premiere this week­end, when di­rec­tor Tom Waller’s “The Cave” shows at the Bu­san Film Fes­ti­val in South Korea.

The film was shot over three months ear­lier this year and has been in post-pro­duc­tion since then. The 45-year-old Thai-born, Bri­tish-raised film­maker said the epic tale of the Wild Boars foot­ball team was a story he sim­ply had to tell.

The boys and their coach en­tered the Tham Luang cave com­plex af­ter soc­cer prac­tice and were quickly trapped in­side by ris­ing flood­wa­ter. De­spite a mas­sive search, the boys spent nine nights lost in the cave be­fore they were spot­ted by an ex­pert diver. It would take an­other eight days be­fore they were all safe.

Waller was vis­it­ing his fa­ther in Ire­land when he saw tele­vi­sion news ac­counts of the drama.

“I thought this would be an amaz­ing story to tell on screen,” he said.

But putting the parts to­gether af­ter their dra­matic res­cue proved to be a chal­lenge. Thai­land’s gov­ern­ment, at the time led by a mil­i­tary junta, be­came very pro­tec­tive of the story, bar­ring unau­tho­rized ac­cess to the Wild Boars or their par­ents. Waller of­ten feared his pro­duc­tion might be shut down.

His good for­tune was that the events at the Tham Luang cave in Chi­ang Rai prov­ince had mul­ti­ple an­gles and in­ter­est­ing char­ac­ters. Es­pe­cially com­pelling were the sto­ries of the res­cuers, par­tic­u­larly the ex­pert divers who ral­lied from around the world.

He de­cided to make a film “about the vol­un­teer spirit of the res­cue.”

Other peo­ple pro­posed telling the story from the point of view of the boys, and Net­flix nailed down those rights in a deal bro­kered by the Thai gov­ern­ment.

“I took the view that this was go­ing to be a story about the peo­ple we didn’t know about, about the cave divers who came all the way from across the planet,” Waller said. “They lit­er­ally dropped ev­ery­thing to go and help, and I just felt that was more of an ex­cit­ing story to tell, to find out how these boys were brought out and what they did to get them out.”

Waller even had more than a dozen key res­cue per­son­nel play them­selves.

Waller said they were nat­u­ral ac­tors, blend­ing in al­most seam­lessly with the pro­fes­sion­als around them, and helped by the ac­cu­racy of the set­tings and the pro­duc­tion’s close at­ten­tion to de­tail.

“What you are re­ally do­ing is ask­ing them to re­mem­ber what they did and to show us what they were do­ing and what they were feel­ing like at the time,” he said. “That was re­ally very emo­tional for some of them be­cause it was ab­so­lutely real.”

Waller said his film is likely to have a vis­ceral ef­fect on some view­ers, evoking a mea­sure of claus­tro­pho­bia.

“It’s a sort of im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence with the sound of the en­vi­ron­ment, you know, the fact that is very dark and murky, that the wa­ter is not clear,” he said.

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