Thai Cave Rescue Movie Made. After 87 Hours of Video


Documentary producer Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi lives in fear of not being able to tell a full story. What if there is another angle to explore? More images to reveal? Is his research on a subject really complete? These emotions occupied a large part of his brain in May, when he was finally able to travel to Thailand.

Vasarhelyi, 42, and her husband, Jimmy Chin, 47, are best known for their Oscar-winning, death-defying climbing documentaries.Free SoloThe duo spent three years diligently delivering every piece of video available to them for their new movie: “Recovery” It opens in theaters on October 8. he follows 2018 global effort to get 12 young football players and their coaches back It was flooded in the Tham Luang cave in Chiang Rai province, Thailand. Filmmakers scoured international news feeds and local Thai footage, often putting together scenes from a number of different sources. What they couldn’t find, he, Chin and the British divers who led the rescue operation recreated it in a tank at Pinewood Studios in England.

they were essentially they finished their movie. He was moving and upset, but still nagging Vasarhelyi. The scope of the operation and the smaller, more intimate moments that underscored the seriousness of the situation were missing. But these moments were in the hands of the Thai Navy Seals, and after two years of negotiations, no effort by Vasarhelyi had convinced the military to share the footage with him.

Until May. All vaccinated and willing to endure a two-week quarantine in Thailand, Vasarhelyi set out for Phuket to meet with Royal Thai Navy commander Rear Admiral Arpakorn Youkongkaew and his wife, Sasivimon Youkongkaew, a former television journalist. He had the instinct to hand over the Seals cameras at the start of an 18-day rescue operation.

“We’ve spent three years with this story – I’d squirm on the floor if it came out,” he said after the movie was over, referring to any missing scenes. “It’s like a non-fiction rule: if it’s there, we have to try anything to get it.”

They finally agreed, this time after a long discussion when Vasarhelyi again communicated his intention to include all sides of the story. With the promise of a treasure trove of images and the patience to review them, he returned to the United States with the help of Youkongkaew, who flew to New York with 87 hours of footage in his backpack.

“It’s like a dream come true for a non-fiction filmmaker. It was also a nightmare,” Vasarhelyi said of all these footage coming after the movies were supposedly finished. Their editor, Bob Eisenhardt, said, “He knew what I wanted from him. You saw the iceberg come. It would be a slow, painful accident, and then no one would be able to sleep all summer.”

The result of this extra effort is a heartwarming, heart-pounding cinematic experience just like the first one. Alex Honnold’s Journey in “Free Solo” although the fate of the football team is well documented. Fifteen minutes of footage from the seals (and the Thai military) is now on the film and adds an extra layer of scope to the film. Thanks to the rescue team’s cameras, viewers will see, for the first time, footage of divers Rick Stanton and John Volanthan exiting the cave where they found the children, and hundreds of people pulling the stretchers containing the children out of the water.

“This thing finally gave you a scale,” said Vasarhelyi, who admitted he didn’t understand why so many people were needed for the rescue until he saw the footage on his trip to Thailand and did his own cave trek.

“Recovery” had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in early September. Three weeks later, when Vasarhelyi and Chin sat down for an interview, the movie changed again—a minute added to highlight other key rescue tactics.

“The process of this has been very intense,” Chin said. “We want to represent what really matters, and we’ve been digging for three years to get this thing right.”

“I told my mother I was doing everything I could,” Vasarhelyi added with a laugh.

Complicating Vasarhelyi and Chin’s efforts was a complex and convoluted usurpation of the right to life of the people involved in the rescue. Vasarhelyi and Chin were initially bonded to direct for Universal, which was planning a dramatized version based on the football players’ stories. But after the Thai government got involved, the rights to these stories were stripped away. Netflix later picked them up and is currently shooting its own mini-series in Thailand.

National Geographic, which financed the film for “Rescue,” had the rights to British divers, a ragtag group of mostly middle-aged men, the world’s best amateur cave divers. While the rescue effort was global, the children probably wouldn’t have survived without the divers.

Vasarhelyi and Chin didn’t have the rights to the men, so she wasn’t allowed to interview them for the movie. He had the opportunity to meet them when he visited Thailand. “He wasn’t on camera,” he said. “I just wanted to hear and understand.”

Vasarhelyi shared his meals with some and learned more about their 18 days underground. He was fascinated by role-playing exercises, in which a child pretends to be a parent so that others can recreate the families they miss. The children also had the critical and controversial decision to inject them with a mixture of Xanax, Ketamine and Atropine from Vasarhelyi, an Australian anesthesiologist and cave diver Dr. They asked him to show footage of him being pacified by Richard Harris. so they can be transported a mile underwater (approximately 2½ hours) without panic.

“It was surreal,” Vasarhelyi said. “Of course they wondered how it all looked. Of course, they wanted to know what happened when they were under them. I am happy to be able to share that with them.”

Working with divers presented its own challenges. Due to the pandemic, the makers have been deprived of their usual tools to open topics: dinners, hangout time, etc. Instead, they had to virtually bond over their shared understanding of extreme lifestyle sports, which is Chin himself, a professional mountaineer. It is defined as a lifestyle rather than a sport. “They live it. They plan everything accordingly,” he said.

Divers also admired Vasarhelyi and Chin’s dedication to accuracy. Producer PJ van Sandwijk, who secured the rights to the divers’ lives in two separate deals, one for a documentary and the other for a new feature film directed by Ron Howard, said the men were initially “afraid to do anything”. “They came back from Thailand with a lot of ‘This was a global rescue, there were thousands of people on the ground’ mentality. They didn’t want it to be just about these guys.”

When Vasarhelyi and Chin asked divers to join them at Pinewood Studios to recreate the underwater scenes, the men took it as a sign of the dedication of the filmmakers.

“What we wanted to do from the beginning when we started the documentary was to show what we actually did and what we went through while rescuing children,” said Stanton, 60, a retired British firefighter.

“In a way, we just had to do what we loved, which was diving. We were the ones doing exactly the same thing we did in Thailand. It was an opportunity to dive even though it was in the studio.”

This proved much easier than sitting in front of a camera, recounting their childhood and what drove them to the unique hobby of cave diving. Stanton admitted it was “extremely painful”.

But since those fateful weeks in the summer of 2018 when it wasn’t clear whether the children would survive, Stanton and his fellow divers have had more good than bad experiences. The Hollywood Reporter describes Stanton as “Telluride’s most eligible bachelorSpent two months in Australia watching Viggo Mortensen play it He visited the Royal Albert Hall where he attended the premiere of Howard’s movie and the James Bond movie No Time to Die. The book “Aquanaut: A Life Below the Surface” will arrive in the United States next year.

And he really likes the movie. “I am very pleased,” he said. “Most people don’t like it when they see themselves on camera or hear their voices. I don’t find it scary at all. I think we meet up great.”

For Stanton, it’s all part of his retirement plan, a promise he made to himself that he won’t let a recession. “So if you’re going to be remembered for something, why not be known for saving 12 kids when everybody thought they were going to die,” he adds.



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