‘Open Water’ filmmakers survive tsunami

Associated Press:

Los Angeles: Husband-and-wife filmmakers Chris Kentis and Laura Lau escaped being pulled into a real-life version of their shark thriller Open Water while vacationing in Thailand.

Kentis and Lau were among hundreds of foreign tourists on the resort island of Phuket when the tsunami that has killed more than 117,000 people struck Sunday. They recounted their story to The Associated Press on Thursday by telephone from a Singapore hotel.

The family was awakened by the initial magnitude 9.0 earthquake, and Kentis was returning to his hotel after running morning errands when he saw the huge wave headed toward him.

“I heard people yelling, ‘Run, run!’” said Kentis, who wrote and directed the 2003 sleeper hit about two scuba divers stranded in shark-infested waters. “I looked behind me and I thought, ‘This is what happens in a movie when there’s a tidal wave.’ You could hear the rumbling and this wave was coming right at us.”

Kentis, 41, fled to his upper-story hotel room, where he found his sister-in-law and other relatives — but his wife and 7-year-old daughter Sabrina weren’t there.

At that moment, they were in a second-floor Internet cafe, trapped by a telephone booth lodged in the stairwell. The power went out and electric lines popped all around them.

“I saw the wave come over the street. It just washed away absolutely everything in its path. I just couldn’t believe my eyes,” said Lau, who produced Open Water.

Lau, 41, said she pulled about a half-dozen Swedish tourists to safety using a bamboo ladder before using it herself to escape from the cafe’s balcony with Sabrina on her back. They reached Kentis by hiking in waist-deep water back to the hotel.

The couple then hiked several miles into the mountains with their luggage because they were afraid another massive wave was coming. They took two minicabs to Phuket’s east coast, which Kentis said seemed almost unaffected by the tsunami.

“When we got there, it was all people on yachts having a good time. It was just surreal,” Kentis said. “Two hours later, our kids were swimming in this beautiful hotel pool and we’re ordering food.” “Open Water” was released Tuesday on DVD, but Kentis said that was the last thing on his mind. “In the wake of all this, it’s meaningless to me,” he said. “If we’d done anything differently, who knows if we would have come out alive or not?”