Dancing Under the Red Star by E W Helmick | Script Revolution

Dancing Under the Red Star

Commissioned by Henry Ford, an employee takes his family to Ford's auto plant in Gorky Russia where they are faced with even worse conditions and eventually sent to labor camps. This is a true story.



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Based On: 
the Random House book by Karl Tobien

A mesmerizing epic drama and shocking true story, Dancing Under the Red Star is the riveting account of Margaret Werner Tobien—the only American woman known to have survived the ruthless brutality of the Siberian slave labor (death) camps, for 10 years, in Stalinist Russia during World War II, eventually escaping and returning to the United States of America.

Officially sponsored by the Henry Ford Motor Company—in 1932, eleven-year-old Margaret Werner leaves Detroit with her father and mother—Carl and Elisabeth Werner, in an effort to escape the growing famine and poverty in America. It is purported to be only a “one year” trip. Promised a better life, along with financial opportunity, they, along with several hundred others, boarded a cruise ship bound for Gorky, Russia. Once there, Carl Werner, a talented machinist and engineer, would assist in training Russian workers at Henry Ford’s automobile plant there in Gorky. Upon their arrival, however, they quickly realized the stark reality of this fateful mistake—when faced with unbearable living conditions, horrid famine, widespread persecution, and untold suffering under the oppressive and ruthless Stalinist regime.

Margaret excels in her (Russian) school work, and despite the tremendous opposition, she remains a steadfast American. She becomes an acclaimed champion swimmer for the Gorky region in Russia, while seeking to fulfill her life long dream of becoming a world renown ballerina. Tragically, she is unaware and unprepared for what is about to happen next. At the age of 17, her father is savagely arrested under trumped up charges, “enemy of the state,” by Russia’s notorious NKVD, and accused of treason and crimes against the Russian motherland. Margaret and her mother Elisabeth are transferred to an apartment that is no more than a one room storage closet where they are required to live without any further contact with their father and husband, Carl Werner. There is no money, no viable means of support, and nowhere safe to hide! On the horizon, Russia wages war with Finland, and the country begins to falter.

Persistent nonetheless, and in her anger—Margaret fights local military and political authorities and swears she will not only find her father, but save him from the hell he is living. Confiding in a young lover, Nikolai—a Russian born military pilot, Margaret deepens her commitment to rescue her father. Nikolai is reluctant, but offers her assistance in the quest—sacrificing self, for the love of his life, Margaret.
Though confronted with governmental lies and mindless red tape she finds her love for Nikolai growing increasingly stronger. He asks her to marry him, and she agrees. Now turning her efforts towards her own freedom, with eyes fixed on returning to America, she uses Nikolai’s military position as leverage, creating further hardships and untold misfortune for herself and her mother, Elisabeth.

At the age of 24, the same NKVD officials who once came for her father are now knocking at her door with a warrant for Margaret’s arrest. The official crime: “treason,” “anti-Soviet propaganda,” “crimes against the state,” and “spying for the British Secret Service.” Margaret is stolen away on the eve she is to meet Nikolai and discuss wedding plans.

Convicted by a Russian Troika (a set of 3 judges), Margaret is sent to a labor camp in the unimaginably brutal Siberian north—only sixty miles south of the arctic circle, with a minimum sentence of “10 years hard labor.” Anger, bitterness, and fear - battle one another for supremacy in Margaret’s now shattered life. During her prison confinement she meets a number of women (Russian nationals, and other political prisoners of differing ethnic origins) who befriend and support their new American inmate. Their life is relentlessly hard and unmerciful. Margaret brings something unique, and special to this small gathering, and they suddenly find a simple thread tying their hearts together. A thread of hope.

Back in Gorky, Nikolai makes plans to find and rescue his fiancée. It is a quest that will challenge their love for one another. A quest, that will lead them to freedom. A quest, that in the end will require the ultimate sacrifice.

Submitted: June 2, 2021
Last Updated: June 2, 2021

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E W Helmick's picture

The Writer: E W Helmick

7 time award winning screenwriter, filmmaker, endurance swimmer and chef - Producer & Director of the award winning film Take Your Dream on Amazon Prime which received ( https://www.amazon.com/Take-Your-Dream-Takoda-Shane/dp/B08XQTSCFT ) best documentary best inspirational film best editor Australian Continental award among numerous others world wide Helps aspiring writers learn the craft of screenwriting through his online course, Paramount Screenwriting ( www.paramountscreenwriting.com ) Principal & author of Movie Reviews at Way Out West Media Entertainment Group ( www.wayoutwestgroup.com ) Lover of caviar, black stout and an 1845 Partagas maduro cigar - preferably all at the... Go to bio
Agent: Dora Whitaker
Law Firm: Donaldson and Califf
Lawyer: Michael Donaldson
Manager: Whitaker Entertainment

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