• A Thai Navy SEALs photo from inside the cave, shows the rescuers hoisting one of the football team members to safety from the Tham Luang cave. The drama of life-saving rescue has attracted film and TV companies.
  • A government panel is consider 13 different media productions about Mu Pa Academy football team. Photo/Nation

Analysis: Rush to the big screen

national July 28, 2018 01:00

By Phatarawadee Phataranawik
The Nation Weekend

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A government panel is juggling 13 different media productions about the Tham Luang cave rescue, and more are likely



There are now 13 films, a TV series and animated games in the works about the dramatic rescue of the 12 Mu Pa Academy football players and their assistant coach from Tham Luang cave, the government announced this week.

Officials were no doubt relieved they had acted promptly in response to global media interest in the story, approving a Culture Ministry proposal to establish a committee to handle requests for permission.

Hollywood studios and Thai firms were swift to put forward ideas for feature and documentary films about the cave rescue and games makers have joined in the frenzy.

A Thai Navy SEALs photo from inside the cave, shows the rescuers hoisting one of the football team members to safety from the Tham Luang cave. The drama of life-saving rescue has attracted  film and TV companies. 

Officials of the Culture, Commerce and Tourism and Sport ministries will be among members of the committee, Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat said.

“We are pleased to support both Thai and foreign film productions about Mu Pa as long as they obey Thai laws,” he said. “The committees will look at the proposed projects’ accuracy and will safeguard the intellectual property rights of the boys and coach, the rescuers and the agencies involved, and protect the image of Thailand. It will also be concerned about the impact on film locations.”

The panel would also help the families of the Mu Pa boys negotiate contracts with foreign film companies, with careful attention paid to intellectual property rights, Vira said. The government wants to be a co-producer on the Thai movie productions, added Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krua-ngam, who chairs the committee.

“The panel will also consider the possibility of the government financing a movie separately through its Thai Media Fund. The New Zealand government’s financing of the Hollywood blockbuster ‘Lord of the Rings’ could be a model for this. The Thai Media Fund had financed private feature and promotional films before.”

Vira did not specify any production studios interested in the Mu Pa story, but two were quick to pounce on the idea, with one scouting locations in Chiang Rai even before all of the footballers had been extracted from the cave.

Managing partner Michael Scott and co-producer Adam Smith of studio Pure Flix soon began conducting preliminary interviews with people around the cave site. The firm is known for faith-based movies like “Do You Believe?” and the “God’s Not Dead” series and has said this feature would focus on the inspirational aspects of the rescue operation.

A government panel is consider 13 different media productions about Mu Pa Academy football team. Photo/Nation

“Now You See Me 2” director Jon M Chu and Ivanhoe Pictures, meanwhile, have announced they were teaming up for a movie about the cave rescue. “There’s a beautiful story here about human beings saving other human beings,” Chu said on Twitter. His touted “tribute to decadence” titled “Crazy Rich Asians” is due for release next month.

The Discovery Channel’s hour-long documentary “Operation Thai Rescue” aired in the United States and Thailand last week. De Warrenne Productions, headed by Thai-Irish producer-director Tom Waller, who made the award-winning films “Mindfulness and Murder” and “The Last Executioner”, is developing a script centred on the cave drama’s Thai elements and unsung heroes.

Seeking to expand its reputation as a regional filmmaking hub and stay competitive with other Asian locales, Thailand last year initiated a production-rebate scheme. Projects that qualify get 15 per cent of their investment back, rising to 20 per cent if they promote national interests and offer a positive image of the country.

Not everyone thought the government was being cleverly proactive in setting up a committee to handle productions about the rescue. There were sceptical comments online and among film critics.

Some pointed out that a major movie about a more or less similar true story – director Patricia Riggen’s “The 33”, about the Chilean miners trapped underground for two months – failed to earn back the $26 million (Bt870 million) it cost to make. And this despite it starring big names Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin and Juliette Binoche.

There was a far better outcome, though, for “The Impossible”, a 2012 movie about the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Filmed in Phuket by JA Bayona, it won positive reviews from critics and an Oscar nomination for Naomi Watts, who starred alongside Ewan McGregor.

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