Ten years after the Boxing Day tsunami, survivors recount extraordinary stories of survival and loss, while rescue workers and forensic scientists remember the heroic efforts made to find and identify the thousands missing after the wave struck Southeast Asia.
The Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004 was the most devastating natural disaster in modern times, killing 228,000 people across 13 countries in just a few hours.
After the Wave: The Boxing Day Tsunami introduces us to heroic survivors like Edie Fassnidge from Yorkshire, UK. She was on Christmas vacation in Thailand with her boyfriend Matt, her sister Alice and their mother. She remembers how the family had rented kayaks and were out on the water for a blissful day of kayaking. Then the tsunami hit. Tossed violently by the wave and badly injured, Edie somehow managed to survive, and was later dramatically reunited with her boyfriend Matt, but her mother didn't make it, and her sister Alice was never found.
American Stuart Briesch was in Thailand celebrating the holidays with his fiancée, Sally, and his three teenaged children. On the morning of the tsunami they went diving, but two of the teenagers decided to stay back and sleep in. During the dive, he remembers how the water wasn’t normal – there were no fish and a strong current pulled them in different directions, but they had no idea what was causing it. As they returned to shore on the dive boat, they came across bodies that had been dragged off the coast by the receding water, and the enormity of what happened began to sink in. They desperately began searching for the two teenagers who'd stayed behind and after three days of thinking they’d both been killed, they spotted his son's name on a Bangkok hospital list. But his daughter Kali wasn’t as lucky. She was eventually identified by dental records and cremated in a Buddhist Ceremony in Thailand.
Sussi Janson’s two daughters had travelled to Khao Lak from Sweden for a holiday with her ex-husband, Johan. When she didn’t receive word after the tsunami, she became concerned and travelled to Thailand to look for the girls herself. “I wanted to go up and see with my own eyes what had happened up in Khao Lak. At that moment I realized if anyone has survived here, they were the lucky ones. I lost control over my body actually, I couldn’t move, it was like…all the strength just left me. And then we left the day after and I came out, home without them.”
She says in the worst days of her life she was met with kindness from the Thai people who had lost everything: “Not just relatives but everything, homes, jobs, everything. And still they were helping the western people.”
After the Wave: The Boxing Day Tsunami also tells the untold story of the epic forensic operation in Thailand to identify and return home the bodies of over 5,000 victims of the tsunami; both locals and holidaymakers from around the world in Thailand for the Christmas break. The best international forensic specialists were in a race against time to give back every victim their identity and return them to their families, an extraordinary collaboration that almost succeeded after two years of relentless effort. It took an unprecedented global effort with over 30 international teams attempting to work together in chaotic circumstances, often charged with complicated international politics and explosive diplomatic tensions.
After the Wave: The Boxing Day Tsunami is a story of perseverance and strength, and in some cases, of extraordinary loss. It's not only a film about what happened in Thailand on that day and in the weeks and years after, but an examination of how the world responds to an extreme natural disaster.
After the Wave: The Boxing Day Tsunami is written and directed by Amanda Blue for Flaming Star Films.
WITH SPECIAL THANKS TO
Stu, Shonti and Jai Breisch
POST PRODUCTION FACILITIES
SOUND DESIGN & MIX
Australian Broadcasting Corporation Library Sales
Australian Federal Police
BBC Broadcast Archive/Getty Images
Brian Cassey Photographer
Historic Films Archive
NHNZ Moving Images
Nine Network, Australia
SBS World News, Australia
British Red Cross
CO-PRODUCTION EXECUTIVE DRIVE TV
Marshalls and Dent Lawyers
Anthony Nagle & Associates
FILM VICTORIA INVESTMENT MANAGER
SCREEN AUSTRALIA INVESTMENT
SBS COMMISSIONING EDITOR
EXECUTIVE PRODUCER, DISCOVERY
WRITER AND DIRECTOR
FINANCED IN ASSOCIATION WITH EXPORT FINANCE AND INSURANCE CORPORATION
DEVELOPED AND PRODUCED WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF FILM VICTORIA
PRODUCED IN ASSOCIATION WITH SBS
Principal Development and Production Investor
Australian Government | Screen Australia
A FLAMING STAR FILMS Production
© 2014 Flaming Star Films Pty Ltd, Film Victoria, Screen Australia