In the summer of 2018, the unthinkable trial of a dozen men and their soccer coach trapped in a flooded cave in Thailand for weeks ended up in worldwide attention.
“The Rescue,” a National Geographic documentary from Oscar -winning “Free Solo” duo of Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, arrives today.
The couple, married with two children, tells this extraordinary legend with an incredibly happy ending through re-enactment, never before seen footage and cooperation from an international cast of volunteers, the unknown heroes of the operation.
“Jimmy and I were overwhelmed by the story and watched the beat beat, the lowest,” Vasarhelyi, 42, said in an interview with Zoom.
They started more than a year after the rescue. “We chased this inspiring story,” he said. “But also, there are very few positive non-fiction Asian stories and as Asian-American filmmakers, here’s one that we’re in a unique position to listen carefully to everyone involved.”
This includes a two -year negotiation with Thai Navy Seals whose input – and footage – is important.
“It’s incredibly challenging. Where in fictional filmmaking you can write your way out of a problem, in non-fiction the barriers will inspire the craft.
“We weren’t there for the main action and no civilians were allowed to film inside the cave. So there was no ‘footage’ and it was just a search, like a forensic investigation combing all the media. CNN will have an angle and a local Thai website will have another, so maybe we have two shots now.
“When I was in Thailand,” he continued, “people just started sending us footage. They knew we were there. Then other resources came along.”
“You have to remember that the Thai Navy Seals are a covert operations team. They don’t advertise what they do,” Chin, 47, said. “So it was a little coup to get them on. camera.
“So, like if your son doesn’t take no for an answer, he flew to Thailand and literally climbed into the Admiral of the Seals and I’m still not clear how he did it – but he convinced them that give us the footage and get out of the movie. “
One of the most emotional ‘There you are!’ the moment is when, after 14 days in the stinking cave, the children are carried one-by-one unconscious.
We saw Dr. Eric Harris of Australia, a diver, via his GoPro, filmed the first boy to sleep, wrapped in a body shell with his oxygen for a two and a half hour underwater swim at the base of the Thai Seals station where he can perform.
“It’s a great example,” Chin said, “of those little moments that are critical to others.”