Fun With Flags: VAL VERDE - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Fun With Flags: VAL VERDE

In which we visit the green valley...

Hollywood screenwriter, producer and director Steven E. de Souza has given the world many a 80s and 90s blockbuster action film. 48 Hrs, Commando The Running Man, Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Beverly Hills Cop III, Street Fighter and Judge Dredd are all from his pen. His films have grossed  over $2 billion at the worldwide box office, and he has a tell.

When de Souza's stories require a South- or Central-American locale that will not cause legal or diplomatic problems, the fictional land of Val Verde is his go-to destination. The name translates as "Green Valley", as "Val" is valley in numerous Latin-based languages like Portuguese, Italian, Spanish, old-fashioned French, Galician and others. Despite the name, Val Verde doesn't exactly appear to be an idyllic destination for a vacation, unless your idea of a great holiday sees you running into tyrannical dictators and the odd 80s action hero that is.

The location first appeared in de Souza's 1985 film Commando, which debuted in US cinemas on October 4th 1985. Meaning that, in a sense, Val Verde celebrates its 35th anniversary today!

In Commando we are introduced to Arius (Dan Hedaya) the former ruler of Val Verde who sends John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) to kill the current president but he escapes en route. In the movie, the country is an 11-hour flight from Los Angeles International Airport, which places it approximately 5500 miles from California and is likely to be near Chile, Paraguay or Brazil. Val Verde appears to be a poor nation, where subsistence agriculture (i.e. livestock) is side-by-side with military propaganda and constant military presence. Inhabitants appear poor but happy, and there is evidence of a trade embargo reminiscent of that placed on Cuba in the presence of battered but functional vintage 1950s cars.

Val Verde also appears to have had a slightly different flag during its original depiction in Commando, although it only appears briefly in the background and never in focus.

Steven de Souza explained his reason for using Val Verde:
"It's something like Guyana, a country which encompasses lush Caribbean resorts popular with tourists, an unexplored mysterious rainforest, and a mix of Anglo, Spanish, African, Creole and indigenous cultures. This is a country of the imagination I've used in several films and TV programs. My Dad's family is from that part of the world and it's something I can write about with some familiarity."
And write about he did as de Souza also included Val Verde in...
  • Supercarrier. A 1988 TV show created and written by de Souza. In Episode 5 "Rest and Revolution" the USS Georgetown commanded by Capt. Henry K. 'Hank' Madigan (Dale Dye) docks in Val Verde just as civil war breaks out.
  • Die Hard 2. The 1990 film was written by de Souza and sees General Ramon Esperanza (Franco Nero) hailing from Val Verde.
  • Adventure Inc. A 2002-03 series where de Souza was Executive Producer uses the fictional country in Episode 10 of Season 1, titled "Plague Ship of Val Verde".
  • Sheena. A 2015 Devil's Due comic book written by de Souza and set in Val Verde.
It was Die Hard 2 that gave us the best look at the Val Verde flag. Briefly spotted when a crowd of reporters await General Esperanza's appearance at Escalon Airport in Val Verde, with a grounded Foreign Military One in the background.

The flag is seen on the airfield and on the tail of the plane, as the general departs whilst greeting the crowd.

The design appears to be based on the Flag of Bolivia, a horizontal red-yellow-green with a large centered emblem that appears to be a bird within a dark coloured wreath. As it is slightly clearer in Die Hard 2, it's quite possible that the flag briefly seen out of focus in Commando is hung on its side.

Val Verde has also appeared outside of de Souza's own work. For example:
  • De Souza long believed that Predator took place in Val Verde. Like Commando, it was produced by Joel Silver and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger. (However, some years later in Predators (2010), Isabelle (Alice Braga) states that the events of the original film took place in Guatemala.)
  • Broforce, a 2015 video game, which has characters that parody action heroes like John Matrix from Commando (as well as Dirty Harry, John Rambo, etc.), uses Val Verde as one of its settings.
  • Val Verde appears in the 2012 anime Symphogear. It is part of the backstory of Chris Yukine, where she lost her parents to war and was captured and enslaved for six years, before being rescued by the United Nations. The fourth season, Symphogear AXZ (2017), features the main characters visiting Val Verde as a key part of the season's plot arc, where Chris recalls her past.
  • Val Verde appears in the horror film The Theta Girl (2017). In a flashback sequence, the Papa Shogun character recalls discovering a hallucinogenic compound in the slime of an indigenous ground toad found in "this shit-hole country of Val Verde."
  • Val Verde appears in the TV show NCIS ("Rendezvous", Season 14, Episode 24, 2017) as a remote part of Paraguay.
  • The Jon Gabrus podcast ActionBoyz is reportedly recorded from a studio in Val Verde.
  • Val Verde is one of the settings of the 2018 film Commando Ninja.
  • Part of Hank Green's 2020 novel A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor is set in Val Verde.
Val Verde map from Broforce

When the world eventually returns to normal and travel/quarantine restrictions are lifted, why not book your next vacation in the luscious green valley's of Val Verde? Who knows what action hero you may run in to.

Val Verde flag image sources: Here and here.

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