UWM Theatre BFA graduate Erika Kirkstein-Zastrow has put together a short film that’s being submitted to various film festivals. Save All Who Dare has made “Special Mention” at the London International Monthly Film Festival and “Honorable Mention” at the Athens International Monthly Art Film Festival. UWM BFA Gretchen Mahkorn co-wrote and co-produced and co-stars in the short which also features LA-based actor Ross Crain. The 7-minute short film is being screened at various film festivals. I had an opportunity to see it online last month. It’s been circulating around in my mind ever since. Finally I get an idle moment to write about it.
The film was entirely shot in rural Wisconsin. Crain and Mahkorn play a couple who are struggling with life in a cult. Far from being the sort of overly-expository stuff one might expect from a 7-minute narrative about life in a cult, the dialogue is sparse and poetic. Crain and Mahkorn spend some time alone in a field and a church thinking about a really important decision that they’ve essentially already made. Wind blows through tall grasses as the two stare meaningfully off into the distance. Things are as sturdy and firm as ever inside the church as the two stare forward discussing the only option they truly have in the midst of a crisis of faith.
I know firsthand what it’s like to sit through shorts being submitted to a film festival. Save All Who Dare has a bit of an uphill climb. Not much actually happens in the course of the film. It’s quite pretty, but its beauty lies in the kind of beautiful stillness and vacancy that doesn’t play terribly well as the next film in a large cue for a panel of judges to consider including on a film festival. I’d watched the film, felt its mood and drifted away from it for a few weeks, slowly being reminded of the essence of its energy as the local winter has begun to warm to spring. It’ actually quite haunting when it’s had a chance to breathe into idle moments beyond the constant rush of work, life, love and social media.
Kirkstein-Zastrow and Mahkorn’s story is a simple exploration of that restless stillness that accompanies the weight of overwhelming existential issues. There’s a kind of death and rebirth captured in Save All Who Dare. It’s not exhilarating or intensely explosive the way such things are so often represented on stage or screen. This I death and rebirth at the moment of acceptance. Years ago I’d had the opportunity to speak with a number of people shortly after the moment they realized they weren’t going to commit suicide. (I’d lived through that moment myself decades ago.) It's not a moment that gets a whole lot of attention in plays or movies. Save All Who Dare doesn't capture that moment exactly, but the narrative resonates through that precise type of moment when revelations are made, exhaustion sets-in and all that’s left is the stillness of the human spirit slowly asserting itself from the ruins of great stress. It’s a beautiful seven cinematic minutes for a Springlike mood. I hope it finds its way onto a great many screens in the coming months.
Erika Kirkstein-Zastrow and Gretchen Mahkorn’s Save All Who Dare continues its journey. For more information including a brief trailer, visit the short’s Twitter page.