Like many around the world, Tom Waller was glued to his TV when a soccer team and their coach were trapped deep inside a cave in northern Thailand in 2018.
The event gave the filmmaker the content for his next film.
Four years later, Waller has released “Cave Rescue,” which is currently available for rent or purchase on digital platforms.
“If I was the father of one of these kids, I would have gone crazy,” he says. “The worry that set in just 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 dive into the stories of the volunteers who pitched in and put their life at risk to save the team and their coach.
Waller and team worked with a wide variety of participants – cave divers, diplomats, rescue foundation workers, volunteers, the police, local farmers and villagers – to ensure 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 either from Thailand or had spent many years living there, they could bring to the script a deep understanding of the uniquely Thai subtext of the story as opposed to the perspective of outside observers.
Waller says after exhaustive research and interviews with diverse characters from Mae Bua (the rice farmer who lost everything as waters released from 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 suiting up and entering the cave with no sleep) to Pooyai Tun (a pump manufacturer from an area of Thailand far away from the cave, whose sheer perseverance may have ultimately been the difference between life and death).
“We were trying to make this film without anyone knowing,” he says. “What’s great about the film is that there are actual volunteers who helped in the recovery back in 2018 that wanted to help with the film. It’s as story of humanity coming together to help. I want people who watch the film to take that from it. It’s a story of perseverance through it all and not losing hope.”