Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Hey Creative People! Is it the right time for a remake of "The Prisoners of Quai Dong" by Victor Kolpacoff?

My local public library regularly removes books from its shelves for a variety of reasons. I purchased about 15 boxes of books through the Friends of the Library, a volunteer organization which sells these books to fund efforts to support the public libraries in my city. I've sold, exchanged and given away most of the books in those 15 boxes. Recently, I received an order through my Amazon store for The Prisoners of Quai Dong by Victor Kolpacoff. Before fulfilling the order, I read the book. I can't do a proper review of it, but I wanted to give you creative people out there a heads up that this book may be a productive basis for a play or movie or a graphic novel.


Its absurd, existentialist vibe is like Albert Camus's The Stranger. While it doesn't directly address ideology like Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon, the setting, a military prison camp and interrogation shack, and the characters, convicts, a suspected Viet Cong fighter and military personnel, are certainly reminiscent.

In this blog, I've reviewed at least two non-fiction books which might inform a remake of this story: Torture and the Twilight of Empire: From Algiers to Baghdad by Marnia Lazreg and The trials of Abu Ghraib: an expert witness account of shame and honor by Stjepan Gabriel Meštrović. I've also reviewed the film The Stanford Prison Experiment (Kyle Patrick Alvarez, 2015).

A remake might be set in the United States's military base Bagram in Afghanistan. Other settings might be one of the southern Yemen's torture facilities operated by the United Arab Emirates with the participation of United States military and intelligence personnel or similar facilities in Cameroun. Even the real life, broader consequences of the "intelligence" from torture on tactical and strategic decisions tragically continue in Iraq and Somalia. The global battlefield of the United States's War on Terror and the combination of USA special forces and USA client dictatorships allow for a wide variety of settings.

Prisoners, a movie based on the book, was made in 1975, but it does not seem to have any distribution at all. I've not seen it. (If anybody can help me find a copy, please do so!)

A good remake in any of the formats I've suggested would have to figure out how to express the characters' emotions and inner thoughts and motivations without monologues and thought bubbles. Might a movie today make use of social media postings by the characters?

A play or movie would have to preserve somehow the tension of the interrogation room. In the book, hours pass while the interrogator repeats questions in Vietnamese and the suspected insurgent repeats his replies in Vietnamese. Later, more hours pass while the interrogator skillfully cuts the torture victim's body with a small knife. Characters remain in the room, but are in corners covered in shadows. Occasionally, when somebody opens the door, sunlight floods in. A successful play or movie or graphic novel would preserve and/or enhance these sound and lighting effects.

Here's two quotes from the book which stood out:

Nguyen is the South Vietnam Army officer leading the interrogation. Krueger is the American backup translator/interrogator and protagonist.

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"Could he not have something to confess," Nguyen asked [Krueger] slowly, "and still be innocent?"
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Krueger's narration: I sat now in the real world, where the Army thought and made decisions--not where men died, and went mad. I let myself go. The well-painted room was as close to escape as I was going to get.

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