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  • Excerpt from Bitter Fruit ( a screenplay in process/progress). Bitter Fruit is a story of love and duty set in the the Anglo-Boer War at the start of the 20th century. It was the first modern war (though that always depends on who you ask). This excerpt comes from near the start of Act III. The picture is a montage: Emily Hobhouse (while she is an historical figure I never let facts get in the way of good story), three generations of Boer fighters, women doing the washing at a camp, and a woman with her dying daughter.




    EXT. BURNED TOWN - DAY
    An empty road curves out of the hills and into what was a town. The layout of buildings is still visible in a checkerboard of blackened squares and rectangles. The trees are mere stumps, stripped for firewood.


    EXT. ABOVE THE VELDT - DAY
    Vultures circle in the pale pitiless sky. Lines of green mark the winding courses of dry rivers. Where the taller trees shaded farms they stand browned by the fires and burnt and black fingers spread out from the ruins of farms.

    Clusters of dark figures dot the landscape. From this distance they could be livestock wandering the open veldt.

    The vultures swoop low and lower towards a group that has stopped.


    EXT. THE VELDT - DAY
    SEVERAL WOMAN and CHILDREN carrying rolls or bundles stand beside an OLD WOMAN lying in the rocks there in the full glare of the sun.

    They are hollow eyed and breath open mouthed in the relentless heat. A SMALL girl lets her bundle fall. No one moves to pick it up. The two oldest boys each take an arm of the old woman and slowly the group shuffles off again, heads down and silent. The only sound is the slow scrape of their feet dragging over the rocks.

    The vultures drop in after them and stalk up to the dropped bundle, a tattered blanket and a one-armed doll.



    EXT. CONCENTRATION CAMP - DAY
    Rows of tents fill an empty valley between ridges of rocky barren hills. The tents are set in straight lines across the flat dusty plain.
    A horrifically bony child squats over a bucket. Other buckets scattered between the rows of tents are glossy green with flies and the flies are thick where pools of excrement have spilled down from overflowing buckets.

    The wind whips the dust in sheets between and among the rows and darkens the surface of a pool of dark water that fills a dip in the land. The edges of the pond are churned drying mud and all around women in long dark skirts and coal scuttle bonnets stoop to do washing. The water along the edge is red with stirred up mud. There are no fences around the camp, there is nowhere to go.

    Two guards stand watch where a deeply rutted track swings through a gap in the hills and enters the camp. Stained cloths cover the lower part of their faces. They watch the women and swat at the flies that plague them.

    CAMP GUARD 1
    God, what a stink. Don’t they know any better. Washing in that filth.

    CAMP GUARD 2
    No bettern' animals that lot.

    A cart laden with bundles of old rags, lumbers out of the camp, the driver doesn’t lift his head. He just nods in rhythm to the ox’s slow step. The guards raise their arms to cover their eyes as the dust swirls around them.

    As it passes by them a wheel hits a rut and the one of the bundles rolls half off the cart. The rags fall away. A child’s legs dangle and jounce as it it were runnign to keep up.

    INT. CONCENTRATION CAMP, MEDICAL TENT - DAY
    A CAMP DOCTOR sits at a desk shifting through a mound of papers. The wind lifts the bottom edges of his tent and shakes the walls. He picks up another paper and brushes a small cloud of red dust from it before reading it.

    CAMP ORDERLY (O.S.)
    (coughs at the door)

    CAMP DOCTOR
    Come.

    A CAMP ORDERLY ducks through the flap, stands at attention and salutes. The Camp Doctor doesn’t look but, merely waves vaguely in his direction and picks up another report.

    CAMP ORDERLY
    Twenty five today, sir.

    The camp doctor tosses his glasses on the table and stands up, knocking the chair over and scattering the carefully piled reports. The orderly rushes to gather them up again.

    CAMP DOCTOR
    For God’s sake leave them. We don’t need reports we need food and clean water.
    This is the plague brought back to life and they want reports.

    The Orderly sets the chair back in place at the table.

    The Doctor sits down and rummages for his spectacles.

    CAMP DOCTOR (CONT’D)
    Expect 1000 next week they say. Where shall we put them? Not a word about that. Not a word.

    The Orderly stands hands behind his back in front of the desk, eyes fixed on a point above the Doctor’s head.

    CAMP ORDERLY
    (coughs)

    CAMP DOCTOR
    You’re still here. What else?

    CAMP ORDERLY
    She’s coming, sir.

    CAMP DOCTOR
    My wife?

    He starts up again and the orderly moves to catch the falling chair.

    CAMP ORDERLY
    No sir, the lady sir, the lady from London.

    CAMP DOCTOR
    Oh dear God.
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