The Vietnam War and the social unrest at that time was more than fifty years ago. Negative and positive influences are still evident in American society today.
Veterans still suffer from PTSD, and Vietnam War refugees who have become American citizens form a vibrant and valuable part of our population. These are just two of many examples.
Almost every family has been affected by those tumultuous times in one way or another.
Noble Public School teacher, independent filmmaker, actor and author Robin Maxwell’s family experiences major trauma and then finds relief in her new film, “The Unsung Hero” Theme of.
This is “The True Story of Ripley Resident and Vietnam War Veteran Wayne Elliott.” Maxwell was one of Elliot’s daughters.
The ambitious project was born when she was a film school student.
“A few years ago, when I was at the Transformation Film Institute, we were doing brainstorming sessions with teachers to find ideas for a Father’s Day film festival,” Maxwell said. “A lot of stories have been written about dads who are really messed up. People who have to find themselves and do right with their kids,” said one teacher.
“He said he wanted to see a movie about his dad, and he’s done a great job from the start. There have to be other hooks to make it interesting, but it’s going to be inspiring.”
Maxwell was outspoken about her dad being a great dad from the start.
“The teacher said, well, that’s your homework, you need to write a movie about your father,” she said. “I think it’s a good idea.”
The project quickly proved too complex to be a short film. Maxwell, who fully developed the script during the pandemic, began portraying her sister as a wayward child.
“The Unsung Hero” became a full-fledged feature film. At this point it’s showing in about two hours.
“Over the next two years, we combined my sister’s character with mine, adding some fictional and obscure elements,” she said.
The narrative of the unsung hero echoes the biblical parable of the prodigal son.
“The son leaves to go his own way and then returns to the father,” Maxwell said. “In the beginning, my father, Wayne Elliott, was a libertine, partying and drunk driving in his youth.
“And then in his middle age, his life changed in the mid-1970s and the hippie movement. He met my mother and had a baby.”
Elliott switches roles, offering unconditional love to his own children as they go through episodes that go astray.
“He was watching, waiting and providing a great example as we went through our own rebellious phase,” Maxwell said. “Each of us found our way home. The film highlights the life of his daughter, who is me, my sister, and some fiction combined.”
The film combines some dual storytelling, with biblical allegory and elements of the Elliott family juxtaposed with each other. “Unsung Hero Official Trailer 2023” is posted on Youtube.
“My father served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam,” Maxwell said. “He was stationed there for almost three years and was wounded towards the end of his enlistment.
“There he had some life-changing moments where he wondered if he was going to die and what his life was. He was always a peaceful man and didn’t want to kill anyone.”
Elliott socialized with the Vietnamese there, often blurring the lines of political allegiance. He worked as a welder and mechanic in the military.
“He asked God not to let me kill any of them,” Maxwell said. “At one point there was a standoff between soldiers and they miraculously decided not to kill each other.
“He and his mates didn’t really understand why they were there. They just wanted to do what they were told. He started talking about the meaning of life, what he was doing and where he was going.
“When he came back from Vietnam, he had a really strong desire for peace. He went after the hippie movement and tried to find meaning in life through drugs and the things hippies experimented with.”
Making a movie is a challenging job. It involves mobilizing the diverse talents of many contributors, some of whom are more committed to the project than others.
Maxwell expressed his gratitude to the hundreds of cast and crew members who worked so hard on “Unsung Heroes.”
“Because I’m a public school teacher, I don’t go straight to work,” Maxwell said. “I work weekends. Some of our crew members and cast members come and go. No matter what the situation is, I learn to adapt and learn to adapt, and that’s something I’ve learned.”
Maxwell believes her father’s story is a hope that can overcome life’s difficulties.
“It shows that through unconditional love, we can get through most of it,” she said. “Your child can come back when we think they’ve lost their way.”
Maxwell has shot exteriors in Noble, Norman, Ripley where her father lives, Wanette, Cushing, Woodward, Calumet and the Ouachita Mountains.
“I loved doing research for the film and learning about my dad’s story,” Maxwell said. “Sometimes he’ll tell them that I’m going to have to dig a little deeper to get more details. I totally understand my dad now, and I’m closer to him. He’s been making movies, and that’s been a lot of fun, too.”
Maxwell has a film distribution contract for Unsung Heroes with California-based TikiLIVE TV.
“It’s a streaming service that you can watch through its own app,” she said. “It’s a non-exclusive contract that we can sign with other streamers, so we’re going to be looking to Netflix and as many other streamers as possible.
“In order to get dad’s story out there, I’m not opposed to putting it on Youtube for free if necessary.”