Filmed entirely in Southern Utah, local filmmaker’s story of WWII Christmas truce premiering at Kayenta

ST. GEORGE — What began as a 15-page script has turned into a labor of love and an hourlong film based on real events that occurred during the Battle of the Bulge.

About a year ago, local filmmaker Dan Fowlks started surfing the internet looking for story ideas for a film.

“I had the desire to do something short, maybe five minutes based on some type of World War II winter story,” Fowlks said. “I found this story, and it completely blew me away, so I decided to start writing a script for ‘Shred of Decency.’”

Through a collaborative effort with other screenwriters and producers, Fowlks developed the film’s narrative, secured vintage wardrobe and began shooting in February and March of 2019 at locations between Pine Valley and Cedar City.

“The one cool thing about this film is that we were able to show the diverse landscape of Southern Utah,” Fowlks said. “In addition, we were able to pull off a German winter landscape in the desert.”

“Shred of Decency” is a story of a Christmas truce centered on a group of three American soldiers who were lost and trapped behind enemy lines on Dec. 24, 1944.

The trio eventually stumbled upon a cabin in the Ardennes Forest occupied by a mother and son, Elisabeth and Fritz Vincken, which soon became the site of uncommon kindness during the war.

Barb Christensen plays Elisabeth Vincken in “Shred of Decency,” a film of kindness and compassion set in war-torn German during World War II, photo location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy filmmaker Dan Fowlks, St. George News

“Elisabeth took the soldiers in and gave them a place to stay,” Fowlks said. “That night (four) German soldiers also showed up to the cabin.”

What could have been a terrible battle turn into a moment of peace and understanding.

On Christmas Eve, all seven soldiers sat over dinner together. Later accounts by Fritz Vincken said that one of the German soldiers noticed that an American had been shot and provided first aid. Elisabeth Vincken said a prayer, asking for the war to end and for them all to be protected. By the end of the prayer, it was reported all of the soldiers had tears in their eyes.

Fowlks said this moment of peace didn’t necessarily happen on its own, however. Elisabeth Vincken made everyone promise to treat each other with kindness, and they had to leave their weapons outside of the cabin. Everyone agreed.

“She really laid down the law in her house,” Fowlks said. “She demanded that there wasn’t going to be any fighting. She gave them a place to stay for the night, a meal, and in the morning they were all to be on their way. She really felt that she wasn’t in harm’s way. One of them was wounded and everyone was tired, so she brought them in for the night. I believe this was her motivation.”

Living up to their promises of kindness, the next morning the German soldiers help create a makeshift stretcher for the injured American and provided the trio with directions back to their unit.

The film “Shred of Decency” will have its first showing Friday at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. at The Center for the Arts at Kayenta. The cost is $12 for the film premiere, with a $35 ticket option that is combined with a voucher to attend a Kayenta theatrical production during the first four months of 2020.

Tickets are available online or at the door the day of the screening.

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