July 31, 2007, - 4:26 pm

Refreshing Producer of Year’s Best, Most Patriotic Movie is NBA Star

By Debbie Schlussel
Although I have no problem attacking the criminal, thuggish athletes in pro sports, I’m more interested in the upstanding, positive pro athletes who contribute to America.
One of those is Elton Brand of the NBA’s L.A. Clippers.
As readers of this site know, I’ve heaped the praise–it’s well deserved–on “Rescue Dawn,” the story of real-life Navy pilot Dieter Dengler who heroicly survived and escaped a Viet Cong-allied Laotian POW camp during the Vietnam War.

eltonbrand.jpgrescuedawnmovieposter.jpg

Now This is a Role Model:

NBA Star Elton Brand Produced “Rescue Dawn”

Elton Brand helped bring that movie to the screen as one of its three producers. His production company, Gibraltar Entertainment, allowed Dengler’s heroic story to be seen by more people. And I applaud that. Thanks to reader James S. who brought Brand’s role to my attention. James writes:

Thanks for the column on Rescue Dawn; I’m looking forward to seeing it. Were you aware that the movie was produced by Elton Brand, the star player for the Los Angeles Clippers, and one of the most respected “good guy” players in the NBA? It was his first foray into movie production (he’s only 28) and he’s said in interviews here in Los Angeles that it was the hardest thing he’s ever done.
Keep up the good work.

Brand speaks proudly of his role in bringing the movie to audiences across America on AOL’s Black Voices:

I saw that documentary, “Little Dieter Needs To Fly” and said, “Hey, this is an amazing story about kinship and friendship and not letting each other down. If I could be a part of that, I would love to.” And then, Christian Bale was attached after “Batman Returns” so I’m looking at that. If I can be a part of this as a movie producer, I want to be a part of it. . . .
I didn’t know much about the movie game at the time. So I said, “Okay, Werner Herzog was friends with Dieter Dengler. He wanted to tell the story in a full-length format. So if I have to put up some money, bring it through my production company [and support it financially], then I would want to do that.” It took on legs of its own. But we were involved in other things like picking the sets where we shot, costume design, and the budgets of course. Everything.

Good for him. Not only is it a valiant first effort, it’s something far better than anything to come out of Hollywood this year.
Now this is the kind of player I’d like to see more of in the NBA.

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15 Responses

Here’s another review I read Debbie:
Family Member’s Critique of Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn
The movie Rescue Dawn will begin showing at select theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 4th with national distribution on July 13th. Its director is Werner Herzog who is a master at taking nonfictional truthful scenarios and twisting them into fiction, Hollywood style. Such is the case in Rescue Dawn which is littered with Herzog’s errors of both omission and commission.
The movie is vaguely based on the book, “Escape From Laos” written by Dieter Dengler. However, the movie takes liberties that are offensive to anyone who is familiar with the events surrounding the prison break from Ban Houei Het Pathet Lao Prison in June, 1966. These liberties may be the stock and trade of Hollywood but they are an insult to the brave POWs and their families.
We, the friends and family of Dieter Dengler, Eugene (Gene) DeBruin, and Pisidhi Indradat despise this movie and condemn those who produced it.
To support these statements we can provide considerable documentation. We base our condemnation on testimony given to the Central Intelligence Agency by Dieter Dengler and Pisidhi Indradat, who currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand and is the last remaining successful participant of that prison break. We also have their personal writings, records, videotaped interviews and information that has never been released to the public. This documentation by the POWs who survived the ordeal paints a very different mosaic about events of that prison break and the role of Dieter Dengler as portrayed in Rescue Dawn. We want to be clear, we were friends of Dieter Dengler. We have warm memories of our friend Dieter, who recently passed away of ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease. We believe Dieter would be appalled by this movie had he lived to see it.
Rescue Dawn is a flawed movie filled with numerous omissions:
- Rescue Dawn: There were six POWs.
- Real Life: There were seven POWs. Pisidhi Indradat, Prasit Promsuwan, Prasit Thanee, Y.C. To, Duane Martin, Dieter Dengler, and Eugene DeBruin.
- Rescue Dawn: Gene is portrayed as an uncaring, deranged and derelict Charles Manson type entity, devoid of humanity.
- Real Life: Gene DeBruin is a kind and caring individual, helping to pass the years in prison by teaching his cellmates English, sharing his blanket on cold nights, sharing his food, even staying behind to help Y.C. To, a Hong Kong Chinese cellmate who had become too ill to escape without help. Gene returned to help Y.C. To despite pleas from Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin to join them as the group split up to try different directions in their bid for freedom. Pisidhi Indradat, a cellmate and survivor of the ordeal, called Gene DeBruin, “The finest man I have ever met.”
- Rescue Dawn: Despite being the new man on the scene, Dieter Dengler manages to formulate the plans for escape and lead the group out of the prison.
- Real Life: Dieter Dengler and Duane Martin arrived at the prison about two and a half years after Gene was shot down and were not immediately privy to the secret escape plans formulated by Gene, Pisidhi, and the others, who had already begun storing rice in bamboo tubes in preparation for an escape. It took the group thirteen days to trust the new prisoner with the German accent, Dieter Dengler.
- Rescue Dawn: Dieter Dengler kills the prison guards.
- Real Life: Pisidhi Indradat risked his life to kill the guards so the group could escape.
- Rescue Dawn: Gene is portrayed as being a wreck of a man in the jungle when he meets up with Dieter, muttering, “What will I do now?”
- Real Life: Dieter testified that Gene, after shaking Dieter’s hand, shouted, “See you in the States,” before heading back into the jungle and returning to help Y.C.To, knowing full well that To would not make it to freedom without help.
- Rescue Dawn: Dengler and Martin approach the village together and when Martin is attacked, Dengler attempts to come to his aid by attacking Martin’s attacker.
- Real Life: Dengler hid in the bushes while Martin approached a village in an attempt to secure food. Martin was hacked to death by a machete-wielding villager. Dengler weak himself from hunger, realized that he could not help Martin and to avoid becoming a victim himself, dashed off into the jungle, later to be rescued and whisked offshore to the USS Ranger.
Both Dieter Dengler and Pisidhi Indradat spoke of Gene as a strong leader and a peacemaker when differences threatened their escape plan.
In raising Dengler alone to the status of ‘Hero’ despite the team efforts of all the prisoners, Herzog is in essence saying that only those who escape are heroes, which downplays the enormous amount of luck that goes hand in hand with the skill a successful escape requires. Duane Martin wasn’t less of a hero for succumbing to his attacker, Y.C. To wasn’t less of a hero for getting sick during the window of opportunity for the escape, why then must Hollywood lower those that didn’t make it out to raise up one that did? All seven were equal heroes from those who won their freedom to the ones who lost their lives.
Think for a moment, what kind of movie director/writer portrays a character in a movie, yet refuses to talk with that person before, during, or after the production? Pisidhi Indradat and Jerry DeBruin made multiple attempts to contact director Werner Herzog, producer, Harry Knapp, and Gibraltar Films, to insure the accurate portrayal of the characters, but to no avail. No response ever surfaced. Nothing. Nada. Silence. Maybe the answer is the obvious one, Herzog didn’t want to do an honest movie, he wanted to make his film his way and the facts be damned.
The truth matters, and the truth is Herzog made a dishonest film and only succeeded in hurting a POW and a midwestern farm family that has suffered enough.

Moe Larry on July 31, 2007 at 5:07 pm

Sadly, our death buster controled society will never hold up real man in the NBA like this guy becuase he’s not a stereotypical thug/wanna-be pimp image-type black. That’s all.

Squirrel3D on July 31, 2007 at 6:30 pm

Good story. This is in complete contrast to former NBA star (and convicted criminal) Isaiah “J.R.” Rider. He is producing the upcoming movie “Black August” that glamorizes the life of Black Panther (and murderer) George Jackson. http://www.filminamerica.com/Movies/BlackAugust/okayed.htm

Spanky on July 31, 2007 at 8:43 pm

I thought the movie distanced itself from being a documentary upfront. The truth was that there were real turncoats who sided with the captors in a much more nasty way than Charles Manson did in Rescue Dawn, I never got the impression that Charles Manson was anything more than a composite for dramatic purposes. Every time Dieter smiled with nice clean white teeth I expected them to be knocked clean out by the guards. But all and all this was a great movie, I didn’t get the feeling it was meant to slander anyone anymore that Delta Force with Chuck Norris, which was a real joke. “The Great Raid” got way more under my skin. When I put some feelers out for comment on this movie there was a peculiar silence, though. I still liked it.
Didn’t Admiral Laroque in Studs Terkel’s book “The Good War” lay down the absurdity of Hollywood movies regarding the realities of war?

code7 on July 31, 2007 at 8:53 pm

“I never got the impression that Charles Manson was anything more than a composite for dramatic purposes.”
That wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t a REAL Gene DeBruin with a REAL family who wasn’t a REAL American hero. But the fact is, there WAS a real Gene DeBruin, he DID serve his country and probably died in Laos, he DOES have a real family and they DID make him look like SH!T for the sake of their movie that they billed as a TRUE STORY! In fact, the publicity info. I read said that the movie “….tells the real life story….”
How would you like to be Gene DeBruin’s mother, father, son, daughter, brother or sister? They didn’t even change his name, he was no “composite”. To virtually everyone who watches this movie, that “Charles Manson guy” is the real Gene DeBruin because this movie that tells the “real life story” says so!
And that’s pathetic.
I LOVED THE MOVIE AND THOUGHT IT WAS GREAT. BUT THIS TROUBLES ME GREATLY. WHILE I AGREE WITH THE COMMENTER BELOW THAT IT WAS “BASED ON A TRUE STORY” AND SOMETIMES MOVIES SLIGHTLY ALTER REALITY TO MAKE THE STORY EXCITING. BUT THE ALLEGATIONS HERE INCLUDE FAR WORSE–DEFAMATION OF HEROIC SOLDIERS. IF THEY WERE GOING TO MAKE A GOOD GUY INTO A BAD GUY, THEY SHOULD HAVE CHANGED THE NAME. TO MAKE GENE “GENE” AND TURN HIM INTO A CHARLES MANSON TYPE IF THAT WAS NOT REALITY, IS JUST PLAIN WRONG, ESP. SINCE THE MAN IS NOW DEAD AND CANNOT DEFEND HIMSELF. I WILL LOOK INTO THIS AND PROBABLY POST ABOUT IT. THANKS FOR BRINGING THIS TO MY ATTENTION.
DEBBIE SCHLUSSEL

Moe Larry on July 31, 2007 at 10:02 pm

Moe Larry-
Thanks for the heads-up. Dramatic license is one thing but the points you outlined are shocking.

code7 on August 1, 2007 at 7:07 am

While I acknowledge that most movies have factual/contextual flaws, I still have to ask what the hell is wrong with people when they have to kick in the after burners on their anal retention and slam a movie that has a great message and was based on the experiences of the man who lived them? For once, a movie comes out regarding the real-life trauma and heroism of one man, who immigrated to this country and so loved it as to NOT betray it (something we could all stand to learn from instead of the usual bullshit about gangbangers, pukes, sleazy whores, and crooked politics)and all the shithouse experts some scrambling out of the latrine to systematically tear it to shreds.
There’s a hell of a lot that went on on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that we’ll never know about; a lot of the shit that happened to our troops we’ll never get the straight dope on. My late brother-in-law, a retired GySgt, USMC, saw a lot of nasty shit over there after 2 tours. He talked more to me about it than he did his own kids…even he couldn’t articulate it; you had to fucking be there, plain and simple.

1shot1kill on August 1, 2007 at 8:58 am

Good for Elton Brand, he is taking advantage of opportunities and expanding his horizon beyond basketball. I am certain he is not the only sports figure that is doing so, nor is he the first.
Off the top of my head -
Can’t remember the guys name (Bing, maybe) but he is in the steel business. He played basketball for either Detroit or Chicago some 30 years ago.
Roger Staubach, John Elway, and I think the owner (former football player) of the Denny’s restaurant chain are doing well for themselves beyond their sports.
Magic Jonhson has created quite the real estate empire.
Cal Ripken is doing quite nicely becoming a minor leauge baseball team owner.
Tiki Barber made positive moves for himself.
Isn’t a Minnesota State Supreme Court justice a former NFL player?
Again, good on Elton Brand. Good on all the others (mentioned and unmentioned) that are doing well, have done well, and continue to do well in the future.
They are out there.

zyzzyg on August 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

“I still have to ask what the hell is wrong with people when they have to kick in the after burners on their anal retention and slam a movie that has a great message and was based on the experiences of the man who lived them?”
Maybe bringing up the fact that they changed the number of prisoners is nitpicking. But changing the guy who killed the guards just to make your main character look like more of a hero? That’s just gratuitous and inexcusable in a movie that bills it self as “telling the real life story”.
I don’t care how many movies the guy wants to make about a whackjob obsessing over a handful of bear poop (Grizzly Man), but what he did to Gene DeBruin (Ironic, huh? De BRUIN???) was just wrong.
“There’s a hell of a lot that went on on Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia that we’ll never know about; a lot of the shit that happened to our troops we’ll never get the straight dope on.”
Fair enough. But when the only living survivor of the story you’re trying to tell is more than willing to talk, and you blow him off, that’s wrong. And when family and friends try to talk to you about it and you blow them off, that’s wrong too. And when people who are a lot more knowledgeable about what when on where your “true story” is set, and you blow THEM off too, now we’re getting into something a lot more than “anal” nitpicking.
Anyway, we’ll see what Debbie comes up with on this.

Moe Larry on August 1, 2007 at 4:22 pm

I’m sorry I mistakenly did not post the names of the people who signed the “family member” review I posted earlier. I found the review on the “Air America” website.
http://www.air-america.org/
They are:
Jerry DeBruin – Brother of Gene DeBruin jdebrui@utnet.utoledo.edu
Stevan Smith – Documentary Producer – Vietnam War Veteran stevansmith@juno.com
Fred Rohrbach – Vietnam War Veteran pollynfred@comcast.net
Pisidhi Indradat – Thai Escapee and returnee from Pathet Lao Prisons
Malcolm Creelman – Vietnam War Veteran

Moe Larry on August 1, 2007 at 6:14 pm

There’s more info including a letter from Dengler to DeBruin’s family and a video of Dengler talking about DeBruin, as well as a review from the ONLY living survivor of the escape here:
http://www.smokejumpers.com/nsa_news/item.php?nsa_news_id=418

Moe Larry on August 1, 2007 at 6:37 pm

Saving Private Ryan was a good movie, but criticism of its inaccuracies lead Spielberg to produce “Band of Brothers” in response, and that was a problem?
I’m with Moe. If it was my brother that was slandered that way, I would hunt the Director down and kick him in the balls!
By the way, there is an excellent book on a greencard holding British subject who somehow managed to get a commission in the Army Infantry during the Vietnam War, was captured and escaped from a camp.
He had a hell of a time naked with no uniform or ID and a British accent when he managed to find an American patrol. I found the book in Ireland of all places.

code7 on August 1, 2007 at 8:41 pm

I don’t know if “Band of Brothers” followed SPR due to innacuracies in SPR. But it appears that SPR “borrowed” the story of Fritz Niland and his brothers. I don’t think they ever tried to say that SPR was based on a true story like Rescue Dawn.
But there were plenty of blatant screw ups with Band of Brothers that could have been easily avoided if they’d wanted to. More info on both those stories on Mark Bando’s fantastic website here:
http://www.101airborneww2.com/bandofbrothers.html
If the family members’ review is correct, it appears Herzog took even MORE liberties with even less regard for the truth or any effort to arrive at the truth, or worse; a blatant disregard for the truth.

Moe Larry on August 1, 2007 at 8:54 pm

And thanks to Dave B. for pointing out the family member review on Smokejumpers.com.

Moe Larry on August 1, 2007 at 9:03 pm

Because Elton Brand is from right here in Westchester County, NY; there has always been a lot of press locally about him. One of the things that always stood out is that he stuck to his studies (in fact he started high school early at age 13!), never took drugs and never got in trouble. When George Pataki was governor of NY (who came from the same small city as Brand), he said in an interview that Brand was really his hometown’s favorite son, not himself.
This guy has always been a class act compared to most of the scum in the NBA (I never knew him personally, it’s a big county and he lives at the other end about 30 miles from me) and while I wouldn’t expect any less from him, it was really nice to read about this from you, nice job Deb!

hairymon on August 2, 2007 at 2:43 pm

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