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The Cave Rescue on the Big Screen

You’d have to be living in a, well…a cave, to have missed the sensational 2018 rescue of the Moo Pa, or Wild Boar, football team from Chiang Rai’s Tham Luang Cave, an event which blanketed world news for its duration and became a source of deep ongoing national pride for Thailand.

As with any event of this magnitude, Hollywood has come knocking, and while Netflix has bought the rights to the rescue story, Universal is also developing its own movie. Half Thai, half Irish independent filmmaker Tom Waller, who is based in Bangkok, recently beat everyone to the punch by releasing the first of what is surely to be many movies about the rescue.

Written by Waller and successful Chiang Mai screenwriter Don Linder, The Cave focuses on just some of the 7,000 people involved in the eventual rescue of the Wild Boars. In many cases real life participants in the rescue acted as themselves in the film. Netflix ensured they had no access to the football team members themselves.

“The movie is fiction based on real facts,” Tom Waller told Citylife recently. “It was a combination of great timing and local knowledge by me and Don Linder. On top of that, being half Thai and half Irish meant that I could see the story and transmit it to people from both a local and an international point of view.”

Waller and Linder have other home-grown advantages when it comes to this movie: not only are they deeply familiar with the story and the culture which surrounds it, they have also collaborated to great success in the past in the multiple-award winning Last Executioner, a movie based on the true story of Linder’s real life friend, the last man in Thailand to hold the job of executioner by gunfire.

Yet, according to Linder, this was a very challenging film to make, “It was very hard to make the film dramatic when people already know how it will end,” he explained.

“For us it was important to focus on the people who made the rescue happen,” continued Linder. “For instance, we got to meet Mae Bua, a local rice farmer who allowed her fields to be flooded from water pumped out of the cave, refusing government monetary compensation because she wanted to help. This was a whole drama which unified people from so many walks of life, not just in the local community, but across Thailand and internationally. We wanted to showcase how it was a combined effort by so many who allowed this miracle rescue to be possible.”

The Cave premiered in late 2019 across Thailand.