Thai Cave Rescue Documentary

Nat Geo has brought in Free Solo directors E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin to take over an upcoming Thai cave rescue documentary about the 2018 rescue of a boys soccer team that became trapped inside a flooded cave in Thailand. One Day in September filmmaker Kevin Macdonald had originally been attached to direct the doc, but Macdonald has left the project due to timing issues.

The Wrap is reporting that Nat Geo has brought in Free Solo fiilmmakers E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin to handle an upcoming documentary about the 2018 Thai cave rescue, replacing Kevin Macdonald. In a statement, Nat Geo said that “Vasarhelyi and Chin will bring their signature filmmaking and nuanced character portraits to the against-all-odds story of the dramatic 2018 rescue of a boys soccer team trapped deep inside a flooded cave in Thailand. With exclusive access and never-before-seen footage from the rescue, the film tells the story of the cave divers who challenged the limits of human potential and became the unlikely heroes of an edge-of-your-seat mission with life-or-death stakes.”

Per Wikipedia, “In June and July 2018, a widely publicised cave rescue saved the lives of members of a junior football team who were trapped inside the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. Twelve members of the team, aged eleven to sixteen, and their 25-year-old assistant coach entered the cave on 23 June after football practice. Shortly afterwards, heavy rains partially flooded the cave, blocking their way out.” The story made national news and several potential film adaptations of the tale were being considered. In addition to this Nat Geo doc, Ron Howard is set to make a feature called Thirteen Lives.

“National Geographic shares our deep commitment to bringing honest and inspiring stories to audiences around the world,” Vasarhelyi and Chin said. “We are thrilled to be working with them again on these powerful new projects that not only push the boundaries of filmmaking but also shine a light on the incredible resilience and determination of humankind.”

Carolyn Bernstein, executive vice president of scripted content and documentary films for National Geographic, said: “Chai and Jimmy are masterful storytellers who bring unparalleled artistry and distinctive vision to everything they do. We are proud to continue our partnership with them to tell these profound stories in an authentic yet innovative way.”

Free Solo was a terrifying documentary about a potentially crazy person climbing El Capitan’s 900-meter vertical rock face, and it was mighty effective, so I’m definitely curious to see more from Vasarhelyi and Chin. The Wrap adds that Vasarhelyi and Chin are also working on several other projects for Nat Geo – “Tompkins about conservationist Kristine Tompkins, a 10-part series titled Into the Unknown about the ‘minds of elite adventure athletes,’ and Photographer, a one-hour pilot about National Geographic’s 2018 Adventurers of the Year Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier.”

Here’s a synopsis for the documentary:

On a cool June afternoon in the hilly region of northern Thailand, the Wild Boars youth soccer team was finishing practice early so that they could attend a teammate’s birthday party. Before heading to the party, the 12 boys and their assistant coach decided to explore a nearby system of caves–an outing that transformed into a two-week saga of survival and a story that would capture the attention of the world. THAI CAVE RESCUE will chronicle the dramatic 2018 rescue of the team trapped deep inside a flooding cave, the perilous world of cave diving, the bravery of the rescuers and the dedication of an entire community that made great sacrifices to save these young boys. A full 360° view of the crisis, told through unexpected angles and with untold stories, the film will bring to light the imagination and determination displayed during the heroic endeavor. Unlike most diving experiences in which one relies on a team, these rescue divers were in the water on their own, completely dependent on their gear and knowing that if it failed, that would be the end. There would be no turning back; life or death was literally a breath of air away.

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