HomeSoutheast Asian AmericanFour Different Insights into the Thai Cave Rescue

Four Different Insights into the Thai Cave Rescue

By Jana Monji, AsAmNews Arts & Culture Writer

Currently you can view four films–two documentaries and two inspired-by films–about the 2018 rescue of 12 boys and their assistant coach from the Tham Luang Nang Non cave in Thailand. The most ambitious is the least successful but even the heavily promoted film by an Oscar-winning director has problems keeping a more diverse view of the events despite heightened sensitivity of these times.

Netflix. Thai Cave Rescue is streaming on Netflix

Netflix’s six-episode limited series, Thai Cave Rescue, attempts to give us insight into the boys and their families, but clearly states that the beginning that “This series is inspired by true events; however, certain characters, names, incidents, locations, and dialogue have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes.” One of the things fictionalized is meant to help increase diversity by adding two Asian female characters who are essentially replacing Asian male characters. That’s unfortunate and there were women involved in the rescue.

Directors Kevin Tancharoen (Agents of SHIELD and The Flash) and Baz Poonpiriya (Bad Genius and One for the Road) set a sluggish pace, the blocking is often stilted and the acting sometimes has less depth than a sidewalk puddle. Sometimes the production and its actors look to clean and pretty. What is interesting is the casting of the Western divers and how the death of Saman Kunal is portrayed in comparison with the Ron Howard film Thirteen Live.

Amazon Prime. Thirteen Lives is streaming on Amazon Prime Video

That’s not a problem with the Ron Howard project that came out earlier and is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video, Thirteen Lives. This film benefits from the expert hand of Oscar-winning director Howard as well as the star-power of Viggo Mortensen and Colin Farrell who portray the two British Cave Rescue Council who found the boys and helped in their rescue. However, the focus is tipped in favor of these two men in a way that seems to forget the sacrifice of not one, but two Thai divers.

Netflix. The Trapped Thirteen is streaming on Netflix

Much better, is the Netflix documentary The Trapped 13: How We Survive the Thai Cave. Despite the clunky title, the documentary which is directed by Pailin Wedel features beautifully lit studio interviews with all of the 13 as well as the widow of Saman Kunal. This isn’t all talking heads; the interviews are punctuated by reenactments.

Disney+ photo

For me, coming four years after the incident, this was a perfect follow-up to the National Geographic documentary The Rescue. Oscar-winning directors Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin used body-cam footage recorded by the rescue divers and together with The Trapped 13: How We Survived the Thai Cave provide a good view from several vantage points. One interviewee in particular includes sly but astute comments about the clash of egos.

The Rescue and The Trapped 13: How We Survived the Thai Cave are both directed by people of Asian descent and give an even portrayal of events with great cultural sensitivity.

“The Rescue” is currently streaming on Disney+.

Thirteen Lives,” is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

Thai Cave Rescue is currently streaming on Netflix.

The Trapped 13:  How We Survived the Thai Cave”  is currently streaming on Netflix.

You can read my longer pieces on these films by following the links to my blog: AgeOfTheGeek.org.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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