Unsung heroes in the spotlight
The 2018 Thai cave rescue mission of 12 boys from flooded caves in the Chiang Rai Province transfixed the world and was undoubtedly the good news story of the year. No wonder then that filmmakers from around the world were clamouring to turn the incredible event into a must-see movie. However, the Thai government quickly took custodianship of the story and sold the exclusive rights to Netflix.
Undeterred, and keen to portray the part of the story that had so far remained unseen by the public — the perilous 2.6km journey through the caves — writer-director Tom Waller decided to adopt a different tact and tell the tale solely from the rescuers’ perspective. In an effort to add authenticity to the project, Bangkok-born Waller persuaded more than a dozen of the real-life rescuers to take part in the film, including four of the divers.
“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 told Associated Press (AP). “They literally dropped everything to go and help, and I just felt that 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.”
Recreating the dramatic scenes for the film — called The Cave — proved challenging for the divers involved. “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,” Waller told Time. “That was really very emotional for some of them because it was absolutely real.”
Jim Warny, one of the divers playing himself in the film, told Geographical that the pressure to stay true to events played heavy on the rescuers. “I felt, we felt, a special responsibility. Just like the responsibility we had during the rescue. We had a responsibility to get it right in the film, to tell the story truthfully.” Speaking to AP, Warny said he also felt a responsibility to inspire others to dream big. "I see it as a duty to show people that they can do amazing stuff against the odds.”
ABOVE Erik Brown (left) and Jim Warny during the filming of The Cave