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First Thai cave rescue movie premieres, promises to capture peril of the mission

First Thai cave rescue movie premieres, promises to capture peril of the mission

Members of the "Wild Boars" football team pose at the Tham Luang cave centre as they mark the first anniversary of their rescue. (Photo: AFP/Jittrapon Kaicome)

BANGKOK: From flooded passages lit by headlamps to urgent voices echoing off cramped walls, the director of The Cave - the first big-screen retelling of Thai rescue operation - promises to capture the peril of the mission when it premieres at Busan International Film Festival.

"No one is going to say, 'Oh that looks like a set'," Thai-Irish film-maker Tom Waller told AFP ahead of the Saturday (Oct 5) debut at Asia's biggest film festival in South Korea.

"Those who suffer from claustrophobia, there should be a warning ... (you) might get a little bit anxious," he joked.

INTERACTIVE SPECIAL: A closer look at the unprecedented rescue operation

READ: One year after Thai cave rescue, grieving wife of dead diver struggles to move on

The 2018 mission to extract 12 young Thai footballers and their coach - known as the "Wild Boars" - from Tham Luang cave in northern Thailand captivated people around the world.

After wandering into the complex during the rainy season, the team were trapped by floodwaters for 18 days before they were sedated, fitted with masks, and dragged to freedom through kilometres of narrow passageways.

Waller's challenge: To recreate the conditions of the dank, dark environment that made the rescue of the "Wild Boars" so harrowing and unprecedented.

To do so he filmed in similar caves around Thailand and employed four of the rescue divers to star as themselves.

"We had to deal with snakes, huge spiders," Waller said.

READ: Thai cave rescue: From despair to delight - and new concerns about the boys

READ: 'It's a miracle': Thai boys relive ordeal in broadcast

This photo taken on Oct 1, 2019 shows Belgian diver Jim Warny, who took part in the Thai cave rescue mission in 2018, speaking during an interview in Bangkok. (Photo: AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha)

The movie is hitting theatres ahead of bigger and better-financed projects, and he hopes the festival will give the independent film the profile it needs to go truly global.

"Us being shown at Busan first, it's playing the film on a world stage," Waller said, adding that it will debut in Thailand in November after a festival tour.

Appetite for the incredible tale remains strong more than one year after the operation as companies pump out books, shows, and documentaries.

In the pipeline is a Netflix production from the producers of Crazy Rich Asians for which the rescued footballers were reportedly paid US$100,000 each.

National Geographic is stepping into the competition with a documentary by the team behind the Oscar-winning film Free Solo.

But Waller's film will have the advantage of being first to screen, and is taking a cinema verite approach.

Four divers from Canada, China, Finland, and Belgium are acting in it under their real names, as is an American journalist who covered the saga.

READ: The faces of Tham Luang

READ: 'Freezing water with zero visibility but we kept going': Singaporean diver who took part in Thai cave operation

This photo taken on Oct 1, 2019 shows The Cave film director Tom Waller speaking during an interview in Bangkok. (Photo: AFP/Lillian Suwanrumpha)

Ireland-based Belgian diver Jim Warny, who helped pull the team's coach out, said he had a flashback when they recreated the scene.

And he wants the film to inspires others to dream big.

"I was afraid in the cave, I'm always afraid when I go cave diving," he said.

"I see it as a duty to show people that they can do amazing stuff against the odds."

Source: AFP/zl