BACK Screenplay Finally Finished: Adventure Backpackers Encounter the Vietnam War.
Above Photo: Remote mountains and jungle – the real-life locations of BACK. (© unknown)
One reason I wanted to write my novel BACK was to catapult the Vietnam War, and the evils and problems arising from that conflict, into a modern-day context.
I also wanted to show that all kinds of problems thrown up by the war still blight the jungles and countries of the region in which it was fought, and these problems still carry risks for modern-day Adventure backpackers trekking into the same jungles.
This is true of the millions of pieces of unexploded ordnance still littering the jungles of Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, but it’s also relevant for other hangovers from the war.
For example the effect of Agent Orange on the landscape, which, in the book, causes a wet-weather landslide along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from a mountainside still denuded of vegetation from its wartime spraying. This has ongoing relevance throughout the book (and the screenplay).
The persecution of ethnic hill tribe minorities who fought alongside the US during the war, especially the Hmong in Laos and the Vietnamese Montagnards is also relevant to the book and is also a plot point in the screenplay.
Many of these hill tribes are still living in remote jungle villages, trekked to by modern-day backpackers in search of remote and unusual encounters, which is also relevant to the plot of the novel and the screenplay.
The Khmer Rouge, another and maybe the grossest evil to emerge from the Vietnam War, and their psychotic reign of terror in Cambodia are also relevant to the proceedings in BACK, as, unfortunately are their brutal torture techniques.
The drug trade and drug crops grown in the lawless, corrupt border areas of the region are also significant.
And of course, so the whole issue of the fate of American servicemen who were left behind as POWs after the end of the Vietnam War to die in the jungles of Asia is also crucial to the plot.
Then there are the physical and natural dangers of jungle trekking, such as snakes, wild animals, tigers, bears, leeches and malarial mosquitoes present in the region’s jungles, and massive psychological issues which come into play when people become lost, disoriented and scared out there.
Even just stepping off a foot trail for a 30 second wander in dense jungle can bring a hint of this disorientation and fear. I know; it’s happened to me many times when I’ve been out researching in the tri-border jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
Then you have a bunch of dodgy British backpackers who tag along with the American trekkers. The Brits have their own shadowy agenda for wanting to go into the jungle, and just what they’re up to is revealed later in the action.
The trekkers also encounter other dangers from the Vietnam War in the jungle – Viet Cong booby traps. Not bamboo traps, but ones made out of bombs, grenades, bullets and mines, which may still be lurking in the jungle waiting for an unsuspecting trekker to trigger them.
Imagine then, trying to condense all of these issues and themes (and many more) not only into the book but, more concisely, into a screenplay chronicling the fateful trip of a bunch of Adventure backpackers who disappear into the region’s 70 million year-old jungle.
The Americans go in search of something left behind from the Vietnam War, armed only with a combat journal from a Special Forces mission to the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1968, some old photos, maps and a wide variety of modern communications devices, none of which prove helpful when they get out there.
I have finally finished my screenplay based on the BACK novel and will now look to get it developed and made. It would be a great psychological jungle thriller with the right actors and director.
But as I learnt a long time ago, writing these things is actually the EASY part; getting them commissioned, funded and made are the often impossible tasks, but we are now looking seriously at this and I’ll provide updates on this site if and when there’s any news.
I’ll explore all avenues to get this made.
See the trailer for our new film, M.I.A. A Greater Evil. Set in the jungles of Laos and Vietnam, the film deals with the possible fate of US servicemen left behind after the US pulled out of the Vietnam War.
For POWs left behind in Laos, see:
© Peter Alan Lloyd
BACK Parts 1 and 2
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