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Portland filmmaker Marlin Darrah makes light suspense movie in Amazon rainforest as part of 10-year film quest.

COURTESY PHOTO: MARLIN DARRAH - Marlin Darrah (front) and others scout out shooting locations for 'Amazon Queen.'Marlin Darrah has visited about 150 countries in the world, and says he has "about 50 to go."

If anybody could visit every country in the world, it would be Darrah, who has spent his adult life traveling and making adventure and documentary films. "It's a lifestyle," he said. When he's at home, he's planning another trip. When he's on a trip, he's thinking of the next one.

So, it figures that after completing the feature-length film "Amazon Queen," filmed on the Amazon River and in the rainforest of Brazil, Darrah has a plan to make 10 features in the next 10 years.

"I have the ambition to do it," said Darrah, a Eugene native who lives in Portland as well as Los Angeles. "Write it quickly and get it produced with a small guerrilla team, in a sense."

The next one will be in Egypt, and it's about a female archaeologist who finds the real bust of Nefertiti. Then, in the future it's a pirate film in Madagascar, a "lost safari" film in Tanzania, "Mummies of Lisbon" (Peru), and a "hippie trail" film tracing the Amsterdam to Kathmandu route via VW bus.

COURTESY PHOTO: MARLIN DARRAH - 'Amazon Queen' is about a hostage-taking event on a boat, as criminals seek a lost treasure.First things first: Darrah hopes to sign a distribution company to get a deal to put out "Amazon Queen" and allow people to enjoy it.

"Amazon Queen" will be screened at 6:45 p.m. and 9 p.m. June 24 at McMenamins Kenndy School. There'll be a meet-and-greet, and Darrah will host a question-answer session after the shows.

Darrah said his movie has been invited and submitted to over 140 film festivals around the world.

Darrah made a feature film in 2002, called "Monsoon Wife" in Cambodia. So, it's been 19 years between feature films. He has done about 120 travel adventure and documentary films in his career.

Darrah wanted to make a light suspense drama in an exotic location on a tight budget (well under $1 million, a micro-independent budget, he said). There are eight American actors in the movie, plus crew and supporting cast hired in Brazil. Manaus, in the heart of the rainforest, served as the hub.

The story: A dream vacation of a lifetime quickly turns into a hijacking, endangering passengers and crew, on a boat journey down the Amazon River and into the Brazilian rainforest. Desperate criminals are aboard, pursuing a lost fortune in the jungle. Now under threat, and with food and fuel running low, the once idealistic tourists — now hostages — must confront the darkest corners of their souls, as their Amazon cruise becomes a descent into a desperate struggle for survival.

COURTESY PHOTO: MARLIN DARRAH - A friend of Marlin Darrah's owns the boat on which much of 'Amazon Queen' was filmed."I'm very happy with it," Darrah said. "There are three 'movies' you do — the one you write, the one you shoot and the one you edit. This one was a little different than what we wrote it to be.

"The effort we put into it was huge to make it on such a low budget. To come out with something that looks as good as this … the look of it is tremendous, the scope of it is tremendous being in the Amazon, the actors are solid throughout movie."

It was shot with the best of equipment, including 5K Red Camera (used in "Lord of the Rings" movies).

Rick Cullis co-wrote the script with Darrah, and Carson Grant is the executive producer and an actor in the film. The movie was shot in October 2020.

Logistically, Darrah said, "It was extremely difficult. Just getting cast and crew that was plucky and brave enough to go down there during the COVID-19 pandemic; 70% of the city we arrived in (Manaus) had tested positive or experienced COVID. We had the (COVID) screening before, and we tried to isolate ourselves before going. The Amazon is challenging enough; there's no permanent road that connects to the city (of Manaus), you have to come in via airplane or boat. It's a rough frontier jungle city."

Darrah knew an American who owned a riverboat on the Amazon River, and Darrah had always wanted to make a film on it "as a floating stage."

COURTESY PHOTO: MARLIN DARRAH - Cast and crew of 'Amazon Queen' check out some shots of the movie.The Amazon rainforest was beautiful, even with the ever-present bugs, piranhas, anaconda, etc.

"In reality it is like you imagine it to be," Darrah said. "It creates fear in people going down there. There are 1,000 ways to die in the Amazon, they say.

"It's always hot and humid, wet or wetter. It's about 90 degrees every day, with humidity 90% all the time. You have to change your shirt often. It was a big challenge; only my wife and I had been to the Amazon before. Everybody else had culture and environment shock. We were lucky to get out of there with people not being hurt, but with only bites and scratches. Nothing serious, no arms or legs were lost."

Darrah said part of making the Amazon rainforest movie is to bring attention to the deforestation happening in Brazil. The film starts off with a robbery at a cattle company in Manaus — by robbers wearing masks of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former U.S. President Donald Trump — and portrays the cattle company as clearing forest for pasture. Then, there's a scene of the "hero guy" down on his luck drinking in a bar because he lost his love, and on TV there are reports of fires raging in the Amazon and COVID on the rise.

"We get our hits in on the issues that we face with the forest," Darrah said. "People don't realize how serious (deforestation) is."

Darrah has hope that "Amazon Queen" will be picked up by a distributor, and that he'll be able to make his next nine movies.

"We have to prove it or go back to travel adventure films," he said.


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