Director Of 'The Cave' Says It's The Most Difficult Movie He Has Ever Made
Tom Waller is very much in the limelight at the moment because his film The Cave, based on the famous story of the young Thai footballers trapped in Chiang Rai’s Tham Luang cave, is set to be released in Thailand on November 28. Earlier this year, the film had its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival, European premiere at the BFI London Film Festival and North American premiere at the Vancouver Film Festival.
It is the first film to be released on the subject and definitely a cinematic coup considering the boys’ story has attracted the attention of Hollywood producers and the likes of Netflix. The Cave is one more unique film in the cinematic oeuvre of Waller, who has directed two award-winning movies and been the local producer of several international films.
Born in Bangkok to a Catholic Irish father and Buddhist Thai mother, the young Waller was schooled in Yorkshire before taking up film studies at the Northern Film School in Leeds. After graduating, he lived in the UK for five years and then returned to Thailand to launch his own company, De Warrenne Pictures, which soon became one of the country’s top full-service production outfits. Its international credits include the mega Mechanic Resurrection with Hollywood stars Jason Statham, Tommy Lee Jones and Jessica Alba and Elephant Man with Academy Award nominee Dijon Hounsou and Golden Globe winner Kevin Bacon among others. In addition, noted British director Thomas Clay’s Soi Cowboy, which Waller produced, was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the prestigious Cannes Festival.
When he directs his own movies, Waller says his mixed culture is an asset. “I am Western-minded in most ways, but the rich Thai culture has not escaped me.” Which is why his films are social and cultural documents about Thailand, informed by an international perspective. Examples include Sop-Mai-Ngeap (Mindfulness and Murder) about a murder in a Buddhist monastery, and Petchakat (The Last Executioner), a biopic about Thailand’s last prison executioner. Both created waves at international film festivals and were nominated for many local awards.
And now The Cave, which is imbued with Thai mythological and religious motifs. Thanks to his Buddhist and Catholic background, Waller states, “Spirituality is an important part of me, and it translates into all my work, including The Cave. I personally feel that it is time we erase all barriers and walls that divide us—The Cave is very much about that. It’s not really about the boys but about the rescuers—those who came from all over the world and sacrificed their time and risked their own lives to help rescue a group of kids they had never met before. The biggest challenge was to get the details as accurate as possible. In the process, we received threats and experienced obstacles and rejections. We were basically pushed around just because we wanted to make a film about this particular event.”
However, giving up is not in Waller’s nature. When allowed only one day to shoot in the actual cave, he found another near the Thai Cambodian border as a double. But he confesses that the last sequences of the boys being taken out of the cave were some of the most challenging he’s ever done and how proud he was of his Thai technical crew. “Ultimately though, the film carries a message about how different people from all over the world can come together at a moment of crisis. It is a call for unity, that’s the most important thing.”
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