The real story behind miracle Thai cave rescue

Survivors: The team wearing their Wild Boars kit — presented to them by the Thai king. © Getty

Should the story be made into a film? In an extraordinary press conference, the Thai cave boys spoke about their “miracle” rescue. Two movies based on the tale are already in the works.

The story captured the attention of the world. Twelve boys and their football coach trapped deep inside a cave for almost three weeks — only saved after a huge international rescue effort.

At a press conference on Wednesday, those who lived through the remarkable tale told it in their own words.

“We planned to go for an hour,” said their coach, Ekkapol “Ake” Chantawong: it was supposed to be a fun “sightseeing” trip after a team training session.

But on the way back out, the group noticed pools of water forming as the rising tide blocked the entrance. Ake realised the team was trapped. They had no choice but to seek refuge.

“We stayed near a water source. We slept at this sand spot,” Ake said. “Before we slept, we prayed to Buddha. We thought in the morning, [the] water would come down.”

But it only rose higher, forcing the group deeper into the cave. They continued to wait, and wait, and even made attempts to escape: “We tried to dig [ourselves] out. We took turns digging at the cave walls,” Ake said.

Through it all, there was nothing to eat. “I fainted. I had no energy and was very hungry,” said 11-year-old Chanin (his friends call him Titan). “I was scared that I couldn’t go home and my mum would complain a lot,” added another.

After nine tortuous days, the boys were finally found by rescue divers: “I thought this was really a miracle. I didn't know how to respond,” said 14-year-old Adun.

And while the press conference was a joyful event, the tale is not without tragedy. The boys paid tribute to Saman Kunan, a Thai Navy Seal who died during the rescue.

Despite only recently being discharged from hospital, the team is already to be immortalised in film, with two separate adaptations in the pipeline.

Producer Michael Scott —who went to the cave before the boys had even been rescued — claimed the story could be a “major Hollywood film with A-list stars… it’s got incredible heart, incredible acts of heroism, and bravery.”

Should the story be made into a film?

Action

No way, some argue. The boys’ trauma is not some commodity to be exploited by Hollywood bigwigs: leave them in peace. The tale speaks for itself and does not need an exaggerated adaptation. Furthermore, Hollywood has a terrible track record of “whitewashing” Asian stories — we must not risk the legacy of the cave rescue being tarnished in the same way.

Of course, others respond. Cinema is the greatest medium our culture has for recognising extraordinary events. A sensitively produced film would bring us even closer to the story, and spread its message of hope and resilience around the world. The greatest art often springs from real life, and the rescue deserves its place in film history.

You Decide

  1. Should the Thai cave rescue be turned into a movie?
  2. Why do we find stories of extreme survival so compelling?

Activities

  1. Imagine you have been asked to write a new movie based on the cave rescue. Write the script for its opening five minutes. As well as the dialogue, include details on the setting, sound and music. How can you make the opening as gripping as possible?
  2. Read the Catherine Shoard piece in The Guardian by following the link in Become An Expert. What language techniques does she use to make her case convincing? Which single words are particularly effective? Do you agree with her argument? Why/why not?

Some People Say...

“Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world.”

Jean-Luc Godard

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
During the ordeal, the boys only suffered minor physical injuries, including scrapes, cuts and rashes. All members of the team are now due to be ordained as Buddhist monks for a short period of time. This a tradition in Thailand for males who have experienced misfortune.
What do we not know?
What psychological harm may have been caused to the boys. “We don’t know what wounds the kids are carrying in their hearts,” said Tawatchai Thaikaew, an official at the Thai justice ministry. In terms of film adaptations, it is still very early on and we do not know if the projects that have been discussed will actually take off, or indeed, if even more films will be announced.

Word Watch

Cave
The Tham Luang cave complex in northern Thailand.
International
Thai Navy Seals undertook much of the rescue operation. They were helped by British and Australian divers, as well as the US Air Force.
Training session
The boys all play for a football team called the Wild Boars.
Deeper
When they were found, the group was approximately four kilometres from the entrance of the cave. It took professional divers around six hours to travel to their location, and five hours to journey back.
Died
Saman Kunan drowned after he ran out of air while placing oxygen tanks along the rescue route. He joined the operation as a volunteer and was honoured with a royal-sponsored funeral in Bangkok.
Film
Hollywood often makes movies out of real-life survival stories. For example, The 33 was produced following the rescue of a group of Chilean miners who had become trapped underground.
Whitewashing
When historically non-white characters are played by white actors, or when the actions of non-white people are minimised.

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