Like many around the world, Tom Waller was glued to his television when a football team and their coach were trapped deep in a cave in northern Thailand in 2018.
The event gave the filmmaker the content for his next film.
Four years later, Waller released “Cave Rescue”, which is currently available for rental or purchase on digital platforms.
“If I was the father of one of these children, I would have gone crazy,” he says. “The anxiety that set in as a viewer was enough for me to want to do something. Making the film was an emotional experience. I was born in Thailand and my mother is from the area where the boys were. .
Waller says in many ways the script wrote itself.
But he wanted to delve into the stories of the volunteers who pitched in and put their lives on the line to save the team and their coach.
Waller and his team worked with a wide variety of participants – cave divers, diplomats, rescue foundation workers, volunteers, police, local farmers and villagers – to ensure that the details of the story were completely accurate. Many were later recruited to play themselves or to personally advise the actors who played them.
Since the writers were from Thailand or had spent many years there, they could bring to the screenplay a deep understanding of the uniquely Thai subtext of the story, as opposed to the perspective of outside observers.
Waller says that after extensive research and interviews with various characters, from Mae Bua (the rice farmer who lost everything as the freed waters of the cave flooded her fields) to Jim Warny (the diver whom Tom met and interviewed in Ireland and dropped everything to make a grueling journey from Shannon Airport to Chiang Rai Airport, then immediately get dressed and enter the cave without sleeping) to Pooyai Tun (a pump maker of a region of Thailand far from the cave, whose perseverance may have ultimately made the difference between life and death).
“We were trying to make this movie without anyone knowing about it,” he says. “What’s great about the film is that there are real volunteers who helped with the reshoot in 2018 who wanted to help with the film. This is the story of humanity coming together to help. I want people who watch the film to take that away. It’s a story of persevering through it all and not giving up hope.