Netflix’s The Believers: Is the Crime Drama Show Inspired by Reality?

Netflix’s ‘The Believers’ is a crime thriller series that seeks to question sensitive aspects of religion and perform a social commentary on its affairs. Created by Aummaraporn Phandintong, the Thai language show, also known as ‘Sathu,’ follows a trio of failed startup entrepreneurs who fall into dangerously deep debt with the wrong people. They must pay back double what they have loaned or suffer the consequences.

They uncover a means to profit from the religious beliefs of people, which are untapped and unaccounted for, and with it, recover from their monetary downfall. Now, the three entrepreneurs must maneuver through the convoluted path of self-beliefs and morals, and tackle the outcomes of being part of such a notorious scheme. The show’s morally ambiguous hue might birth numerous queries about whether or not it is based on a true story.

The Believers is Inspired by the Director’s Real-Life Observations

‘The Believers’ is a work of fiction but is driven by a story penned by Wattanapong Wongwan, who also serves as the director of the show. The suspenseful crime drama treads on a thin line that divides reverence for religion and the hunt for wealth. Though Wongwan has not directly accredited any source of inspiration, in an interview with Netflix, he revealed, “At the beginning, the religion felt familiar to me, but through extensive research, I uncovered deeper insights that I had previously imagined. As I developed the script, I observed society becoming more open-minded, with the very questions that intrigued me now emerging in contemporary discourse.”

He continued, “Therefore, I believe the time has come to delve into the questions that have piqued my curiosity since childhood.” In a quest to explore the sensitive matter through an overwatching and non-aligned lens, the series delves deep into the additional activities of Buddhist institutions in Thailand, including their means of gaining funds. While Wongwan revealed that the show is only loosely based on his observations, he indeed grew up in a Buddhist family. In the same interview, he recalled his visits to temples on auspicious occasions and how he educated himself about the religion.

The writer-director shared, that he was raised in a Buddhist family. In his youth, he visited temples on auspicious occasions and was taught about the religion during his time in school. Through the years his perspective on society transformed while he sought answers to the many questions religion brings with it. Reassembling these experiences and learnings, he began drafting the show five years ago. The portrayal of the primary trio, Win, Deer, and Game, who get caught up in deep debt, helps illustrate the hardships of young entrepreneurs wanting to make a living for themselves in a cutthroat world, much like how it is in reality. They try to scale their disadvantages by loaning money but eventually do not have the means to pay it back.

With their lives in danger, and amidst their own personal issues, the trio must reach out to other opportunities to repay their debt. In a situation as dire as this, the only means to quickly make the money back is by navigating the sensitive course of religious affairs and unfairly making profits. Though the series touches upon a few aspects involving the administrative and political systems of Buddhism in Thailand through a social commentary angle, Wongwan by no means wants to criticize it.

In another interview, Wangwon revealed, “We didn’t make this series to criticize religion. But we wanted to explore the questions we’ve always had and to find answers through the characters and their stories.” He and his creative team’s exploration serves as a social analysis of the roots of traditions. It persuades viewers to look at the usual from a different perspective. He further stated, “Our goal is to get people to question the familiar. Viewers, whether they’re religious or not, will come away with different perspectives. If it gets people talking and debating, then we’ve achieved what we set out to do with The Believers.”

Apart from the overarching plot that seeks to “question the familiar” the series is driven by the struggles and tribulations of 3 young opportunists desperately trying to make something of themselves. At its core, the series depicts how far the trio will go to reclaim their financial independence and if they’re willing to resort to illicit means to achieve it. While at face value the series may seem like a take on religion, ‘The Believers’ is actually is a tale of the trio discovering a seemingly untapped and controversial resource.

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