Lee returns to race issues in World War II
Spike Lee's company 40 Acres and a Mule has picked up the rights to Brendan Koerner's novel Now the Hell Will Start (Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com), a story of an African-American soldier who murdered his Lieutenant and fled into the Burmese jungle to escape capture.
Apparently the story reflects the thinking of the U.S. military at the tie and how it considered the African-American soldiers unfit for fighting alongside American-American and Other-Country-American soldiers. Sounds very similar messages to the last World War II film that he made.
The story is non-fiction and rather dramatically carries the second title of One Soldier's Flight From the Greatest Manhunt of World War II. The novel points out that thousands of African-American soldiers were shipped to India in 1944 to build the a five hundred mile road through mountains into China.
The film follows Spike Lee's Miracle at St. Anna, a film I didn't see and seemed to be lightly pitched as exposing some of the injustices that African-American soldiers faced during these times, but this does look set to tackle the subject even more head on.
“Spike Lee just seems like the angriest person in the world to me. You can almost see the chip on his shoulder.”
He certainly does that, and he seems not to be mellowing with age.
However there's much more to this story than Lee doing another of his films, the blurb of the novel tells us some fascinating information about what the man did in his race away from capture. Be warned though, this does give away the end of the story, and therefore maybe the end of the film:
"Now the Hell Will Start tells the remarkable tale of Herman Perry, a budding playboy from the streets of Washington, D.C., who wound up going native in the Indo-Burmese jungle—not because he yearned for adventure, but rather to escape the greatest manhunt conducted by the United States Army during World War II.
An African American G.I. assigned to a segregated labor battalion, Perry was shipped to South Asia in 1943, enduring unspeakable hardships while sailing around the globe. He was one of thousands of black soldiers dispatched to build the Ledo Road, a highway meant to appease China’s conniving dictator, Chiang Kai-shek. Stretching from the thickly forested mountains of northeast India across the tiger-infested vales of Burma, the road was a lethal nightmare, beset by monsoons, malaria, and insects that chewed men’s flesh to pulp.
Perry could not endure the jungle’s brutality, nor the racist treatment meted out by his white officers. He found solace in opium and marijuana, which further warped his fraying psyche. Finally, on March 5, 1944, he broke down—an emotional collapse that ended with him shooting an unarmed white lieutenant.
So began Perry’s flight through the Indo-Burmese wilderness, one of the planet’s most hostile realms. While the military police combed the brothels of Calcutta, Perry trekked through the jungle, eventually stumbling upon a village festooned with polished human skulls. It was here, amid a tribe of elaborately tattooed headhunters, that Herman Perry would find bliss—and would marry the chief ’s fourteen-year-old daughter."
Now that sounds a hell of a lot more interesting than we'd been led to believe, and that sounds like an unbelieveable ending. Could this make it to the big screen just the way it is?