Sat Feb 29, 2020 – 5:00 pm | La Casa Grande
Where We Disappear
Directed by Simon Fink
USA | 73 min | 2019
This is a story of survival. A young mother named Anastasia waits in a Moscow train station for the return of her husband from WWII. Hoping to free herself and her son from his abuse, she tries to leave him. When he gives her no way out, she stabs him to protect her son and herself.
For her crime, Anastasia is deported to the Gulag prison camp system. Here, enemies of the state are sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. Her arrival upsets the balance of power between the other women in her bunkhouse. There’s the hot-tempered bully, the cowering “mouse,” the hardened elder, the pretty one who prostitutes herself to the guards. Each personality is wrapped in a fragile codependency to stay alive. When another prisoner escapes, tensions come to a head and Anastasia discovers the hidden truth of her survival.
I grew up in a community of survivors. As a kid, I sat at the feet of Holocaust survivors and listened to their stories. As a teen, I worked with local Lost Boys from Sudan to bring them to schools to speak. Whenever I heard their stories, I felt a need to share them, to bring the deepest core strengths and struggles within our nature to light.
At its core, “Where We Disappear” is a story of survival. Among the millions of victims of the Gulag labor camps, women were imprisoned for speaking out, for protecting their family, for saying no to powerful men— and that was only the beginning of their struggle. The story bridged my interests in history and activism with my passion for filmmaking. The challenge was then how to relate it to the cast and crew and explore it together.
In such an extreme place as the Siberian Gulag, what is the one thing each character draws strength from and how do they protect it? The question guided the actors and I through intense rehearsals before production. The answer became our foundation so we could walk onto set and tackle scenes with emotional truth. It also gave us room to ‘play’ on set, unusual as that sounds for a prison camp, and try variations in each take.
This is a timely film— about women who refuse to be silent and a history that is not only rare to see on film, but is currently being erased.
A survivor’s lifeline – that discovered raw core that keeps one from breaking – and our crew’s commitment through details and rehearsals, all aim to make this story relevant. Pair that with a twist and we have a film worth sharing with Beloit’s community.
A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts, Simon Fink is a director and editor whose work has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, TEDx, and several festivals. His junior film at USC was selected to be shown at orientation to incoming film school students. Simon began working as the assistant to director Rob Cohen, followed by jobs on independent and studio features, HBO and network television shows. At the last company he worked for, the last seven shows sold to series were ordered off of pilots and sizzles that he created. This is his feature directorial debut.