Dang Thuy Tram’s diary heads for the screen

Written and directed by veteran Dang Nhat Minh, the film, Dung Dot, Ben Trong Da Co Lua (Don’t Burn, It Already Has Fire Inside) is based on the diary of fallen doctor Dang Thuy Tram.

Her first-hand account of the war reveals her inner most emotions, ideals and struggles with love while she worked at a field hospital in central Quang Ngai province during the American War. Tram had moved from Hanoi to the central province of Quang Ngai’s Duc Pho district to contribute to the war effort. She was killed by US troops in June 1970 at the age of 27.

When American soldiers came across Tram’s body, they noticed a backpack lying next to her. Inside they found her two journals, both of which went home with o­ne of the soldiers, Frederic Whitehurst.

Thirty-five years later, in 2005, he returned copies of the journals to Tram’s family, who in turn decided to make them into a book which became an immediate page turner with Vietnamese readers.

More than 400,000 copies sold in less than o­ne year – a very high number in a country where book publication of several thousand copies is considered a success.

Director Dang Nhat Minh is the first person to pitch a movie version to Dang Thuy Tram’s family. He and his crew took a trip to Duc Pho district to meet people who worked with Tram during the war.

They also visited the place where Tram was killed 35 years ago and hope to restore the field hospital, said Minh.

Minh says the script is still under the pen, but he plans to start shooting next year.

“The movie will have some fictional details, but it will mainly comply with reality because the diary and its writer’s life are very interesting,” he said.

Minh also revealed the possibility of a few scenes being shot in the US.

The movie will be produced by the Vietnam Cinematography’s Association’s Hodafilm, and funded with VND 10 billion from the State, said Tran Luan Kim, chairman of the association.