The Vietnam War and the social upheavals of that time were over 50 years ago. Both negative and positive effects are still evident in American society today.
Veterans still suffer from PTSD, and Vietnam War refugees have become U.S. citizens, forming a vital and valuable part of the population. These are just two of many examples.
Almost every family has been affected in some way during these turbulent times.
Noble Public School teacher, independent filmmaker, actor and author Robin Maxwell’s family experienced a significant trauma and then a liberation that became the subject of her new film, Unsung Hero.
“The True Story of Ripley Resident and Vietnam Veteran Wayne Elliot”. Maxwell is one of Elliot’s daughters.
The origins of the ambitious project came about when she was still a film school student.
“A few years ago, when I was at the Transformation Film Institute, I was doing brainstorming sessions with teachers to find ideas for a Father’s Day film festival,” said Maxwell. “My teacher said there are a lot of stories written about a really messed up father. He’s the one who has to find himself and make things right with his kids.
“He said he wanted to see a movie about a father who does things almost right from the start. It needs other hooks to be funny, but it’s exciting.”
Maxwell emphasized that her dad was a great father from the beginning.
“My teacher said, well, that’s your assignment, you need to write a movie about your dad,” she said.
The project quickly became too complex to be made into a short film. Maxwell fully developed the script during the pandemic, which began by portraying her sister as a capricious child.
“Unsung Hero” was made into a feature film. At this point, it will be screened in about two hours.
“Over the next two years, I combined my sister’s character with my character and added some fiction and ambiguity,” she said.
The story of the unsung hero was written to correspond to the biblical parable of the prodigal son.
“The son leaves to make his own way and then returns to his father,” said Maxwell. “In the beginning, his father, Wayne Elliott, was a prodigal son, partying a lot and driving drunk when he was younger.
“Then, in the mid-1970s, mid-adulthood, life changed during the hippie movement. He met my mother and had a child.”
Elliott alternates roles, offering unconditional love as his own children go through episodes of getting lost.
“When we were going through a rebellious period, he watched and waited and provided a good example,” said Maxwell. “We all found a way back home. The film highlights the lives of mine, his sister, and his daughter, which is a combination of some fiction.”
The film incorporates several dual narratives, with elements of both biblical parables and the Elliot family juxtaposed with each other. “Unsung Hero Official Trailer 2023” is now available on Youtube.
“My father served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam,” said Maxwell. “He was stationed there for almost three years and was injured near the end of his enlistment.
“During his time there, he had several life-changing moments, wondering if he was going to die and what his life would be like. I didn’t want to kill anyone.”
Elliott interacted with the Vietnamese people there, often blurring lines of political loyalty.
“He asked God please don’t let me kill them,” said Maxwell.
“He and his peers didn’t really understand why they were there. They were just trying to do what they were told. We started talking.
“When he came back from Vietnam, he had a strong desire for peace. He pursued the hippie movement and tried to find meaning in life through drugs and what hippies experimented with.”
Making a movie is a challenging job. This includes bringing together diverse talents from many contributors. Some contributors are more committed to the project than others.
Maxwell thanked the over 100 actors and crew involved in ‘Unsung Heroes’.
“I’m a public school teacher, so I can’t take it straight,” Maxwell said. “I work on weekends. Some of our crew and actors have come and gone. That’s right.”
Maxwell believes his father’s story is one of hope that can overcome life’s difficulties.
“It shows that through unconditional love we can overcome most things,” she said. .”
Maxwell has filmed in Noble, Norman, Ripley, where his father resides, Wannett, Cushing, Woodward, Calumet, and the Ouachita Mountains.
“I loved doing research for this film and listening to my dad,” said Maxwell. “Sometimes he tells them, but I have to dig deeper to get more information. He’s been in the shoot and it’s been fun.”
Maxwell has a film distribution deal with California-based TikiLIVE TV for Unsung Heroes.
“It’s a streaming service that you can watch from your own app,” she said. “This is a non-exclusive deal and we can sign with other streaming companies, so we will pursue Netflix and other streaming companies as much as possible.
“I’m not against putting it up on YouTube for free if it’s necessary to spread the story of your dad.”