The Duck Diaries: A Cold War Quest for Friendship Across the Americas (USA, 81 minutes)
Directed by: Matt Twomey
Written by: Matt Twomey
Alan J. Schwartz
A friendship with a Colombian student at an agricultural college in upstate New York sparks a wild idea for seven young guys – to go on a goodwill tour through Central and South America. They obtained a surplus Army amphibian and named it El Pato Valiente (The Valiant Duck).
After landing on the cover of The New York Daily News, one of them took the paper to Rockefeller Plaza and managed to get them a slot on NBC’s popular “Today” show.
It’s 1961, and the backdrop is the Cold War. But the boys’ method in Latin America was simple outreach – going to major universities, putting on musical performances and a series of comical skits, and simply engaging person-to-person with students -- sometimes hostile ones.
Their biggest challenge by far was the water crossing to Colombia. They were warned that their vehicle was unsuited for the kind of seafaring they intended. But seeing no alternative but to turn tail and go home, they took what precautions they could and set forth on the sea.
After three days of being bucked by huge sea swells, their propeller broke and they had no choice but to get ashore. They were marooned.
How they got into this predicament, how they survived it, and how they got out, provide the primary dramatic arc of this film.
In the end, President John F. Kennedy himself intervened so the boys and their vehicle would be rescued so they could continue their goodwill work in South America.