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Gritty Realism the Focus as Tom Waller’s ‘The Cave’ Builds Festival Launchpad

The Cave,” Tom Waller’s reconstruction of the dramatic rescue of a schoolboy soccer team from waterlogged caverns in northern Thailand begins its festival career this week at the Busan International Film Festival.

Interest in the story has been running strongly since the dramatic events of June and July 2018, with at least half a dozen films versions announced and a Netflix-backed series in the works.

Several of those projects appear to have faltered, though a National Geographic documentary is believed to be still moving forward.

But Waller, who holds Thai and British passports and is an experienced local production manager for foreign films shooting in Thailand, used his unique set of connections to get his film rolling quickly. Shooting took place in Thailand, the U.K. and Ireland from November last year.

“Us being shown at Busan first, it’s playing the film on a world stage,” Waller told media. After Busan, the completed film is set to appear at festivals including Vancouver, London and Byron Bay. That precedes a commercial release on Thailand on Nov. 28, for which “The Cave” has already obtained an all audiences general release certificate.

Although the Thai government has jealously guarded the life rights of the 12 boys and has restricted access to the youngsters, Waller’s approach has been to focus on the kernel of international cave divers who have rescue experience.

His film features four of them and one U.S. journalist who are called on to play themselves. A handful of other divers are portrayed by actors.

“There was lots of news footage at the time, and there were TV documentaries that came out shortly after the rescue, but none of them can be truly realistic as they were not there. They were not inside like we were, said Jim Warny, an Irish-based, Belgian national and veteran rescue diver, told Variety. “This is the real thing.”

“The Cave” is produced by Waller’s De Warrenne company with rights belonging to De Warrenne and China’s E Stars Films. International sales are handled by Paris-based Wild Bunch.

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