Movie Review: Sanctified Highlights North Dakota History


Daniel Bielinski’s latest cinematic effort is a treat for Western crowds, no matter how proud North Dakota is

The people of North Dakota are proud of their state and its history. That’s why our interest peaked when we heard about a movie filmed and set in North Dakota. “Sanctified,” a 2022 pic from filmmaker Daniel Bielinski, is a Western with strong Christian elements that delivers a heart-pounding ride!

Along with the rest of the Spotlight editorial team, I attended the Fargo film premiere at the Fargo Theater, as well as a post-premiere Q&A with a select portion of the cast and crew . Learn more about the making of the film and its biggest takeaways in this spoiler-free review!

The plot (without saying too much)

In the late 1800s, an outlaw (Weston) tries to take his share of the money, break away from the bandit lifestyle he’s been involved with, and start a new life. However, he won’t get too far before those he was once associated with realize his plan and punish him for violating their way of life and order. Hanging on to life by a thread, Weston is battered, battered and on the verge of death.

Carl Swanson (as Emmett) and Daniel Bielinski (as Weston) were both present for the post-premiere Q&A and ready to answer any questions from the audience.

Canticle Productions Confessional Films

Canticle Productions is a North Dakota-based film and theater production company that often blends faith and spirit in films. “Sanctified” is no different, as the film approaches faith and sacrifice with religious undertones.

However, he is soon encountered by a nun (Sister Hildegard) who is traveling through the Badlands. She nurses him back to health in exchange for guiding her to a church in Williston. A deep friendship develops between these two unlikely people as they learn to work together to survive their dangerous journey, as it forces him to question his faith in Christianity. As they travel across the state together, they come face to face with a range of threats and allies.

The suspense is in order Sister Hildegard (Tiffany Cornwell) threatens Weston (Daniel Bielinski) and warns her to stay away from the mysterious box she is carrying.

The journey to the first

While the vision for the film had been laid out years before its release, it took much longer than expected to bring the film to life on the big screen. Bielinski penned an early draft of the film’s script, aptly titled “Wes & Hilde,” in 2018.

After showing the script to the film’s director, Nickolaus Swedlund, they worked together on new ideas and rewrites until they had the final product we know today.

Before the filmmakers could begin filming, however, the small production company needed a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for an early 2020 production budget. Soon after, work on the film had to be shut down, just like the production of all other films in the industry. , due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

With protocols in place to keep cast and crew safe while filming during a pandemic, work quickly began to complete the ambitious project out west. Once the project was launched, it was filmed, edited and completed with far fewer hurdles and roadblocks. Now in its first stage, the film is showing in theaters across North Dakota, as well as at the Twin Cities Film Festival.

“For me, the most impressive part of the film was the special effects. There’s a very powerful near-death scene at the start of the movie that felt very real to me.

-Brady Drake

Takeaway meals

For 90 minutes, the collaborative chemistry of Daniel Bielinski (Outlaw Weston) and Tiffany Cornwell (Sister Hildegard) put on an entertaining performance and captured the audience’s attention. Sister Hildegard questions Weston’s faith throughout her journey throughout the film, keeping Christian elements leading the film and essential to the plot.

At the heart of the film, it’s about a nun and an outlaw on a road trip together. The film often sees the characters poking fun at each other, balancing the film’s dark nature with a light-hearted relationship between the two leads. Although these jokes drew a lot of laughter from the audience, they created a somewhat choppy pace throughout the film, as they often went from a casual joke to an intense scene in moments, or sometimes even simultaneously. However, these puzzling moments were brief as the narrative progressed during the short duration of the film.

Although it’s a simple plot on the surface, “Sanctified” is not lacking in twists and turns as the narrative expands beyond simple western plot. The film begins as a simple story of a man (Weston) seeking freedom from his group and a new life. However, what happens is a story of unexpected friendship, betrayal and more.

At the end of the film, audiences were greeted with a dark, yet satisfying conclusion. While it might not be the ending everyone was hoping for (or expecting), it was indeed a fitting ending that brought more satisfaction than confusion or disappointment. When the lights went up, the cast, crew and credits were all greeted with applause from the audience as they discussed the acting, cinematography and other aspects of the feature film.

“I enjoyed the storytelling aspect of the film, especially the little attention to detail. At times the pacing was a bit slow, but overall I enjoyed the show! It’s fun to see a historical part of our state told through this story!

-Geneva Nodland

Above all, one of the most remarkable aspects of the film is the jaw-dropping cinematography from start to finish. The beauty of North Dakota is presented on full screen as the backdrop to the story. Proud to be filming near Medora and the Badlands, the cast and crew in attendance for a Q&A after the premiere largely highlighted the beauty of the surrounding area during filming.

“As a photographer who works a lot with lighting and color, the color grading really enhanced the drama of this film and made it feel more passionate and authentic overall – an outstanding job by the film crew” Sanctified”.”

-Josiah Kopp

Post-Prime Minister Q&A

Following the Fargo movie premiere, actors Carl Swanson (Emmett), Daniel Bielinski (Weston) and Allan Demaray (Little Hawk) emerged from the crowd to answer questions and offer behind-the-scenes details to let the audience experience the film magic that was needed to bring the image to life. Read a sample Q&A below to learn more about the making of the film!

Did you base the plot on a specific story? What was your reasoning behind making the film?

“This is considered a historical fiction film, so it takes place in a real place and time, but the characters are all completely fictional. I thought it would be a lot of fun to put a nun and an outlaw in traveling together –Daniel Bielinski

Did you encounter any problems during production?

“It was fascinating because we were in the middle of nowhere. We had a camp we stayed at called Badlands Ministries as our “home base” of sorts. Luckily, all of the places we shot were pretty close because it was difficult to get all the people, horses, carts, lighting and cameras to come. –Carl Swanson

“We were very lucky to have excellent weather, with the exception of the week leading up to filming when it snowed for two days. It was an absolute blizzard just before filming started, but luckily , it melted just in time. Overall, the production went smoothly, without any major incidents.” –Daniel Bielinski

Where did you shoot the majority of the film?

“Badlands Ministries Bible Camp is located about 10 minutes south of Medora. We also shot at a breeder about 20 minutes south of Medora. We tried to keep it fairly confined to this area, with the exception of the church. The church was actually a school, which we embellished in production and post-production to make it look like a church. It was about 45 minutes north between Medora and Watford City. –Daniel Bielinski

What are your plans with Sanctified next?

“From now on, the film will continue its run in North Dakota. We started in Bismarck, September 30 and October 1, and its run has just been extended for another two weeks. It’s doing really well at the Grand Theaters We’ve played in Belfield and Watford City. We’re going to Minot, Grand Forks and Williston, plus Medora and the Twin Cities Film Festival at the end of the month. He’ll also be playing a whole bunch of theaters that you can see at There are about 25 theaters or so that will show the film in North and South Dakota By the end of the year, the goal is to finalize agreements with companies of sales and distributors to get it on streaming platforms like Amazon and Hulu so people can see it not just in North Dakota but around the world on streaming platforms.–Daniel Bielinski

For more information on upcoming showtimes and where to see the film next, head to for the latest updates.

The Web:
Facebook: @sanctifiedfilm
Instagram: @sanctifiedfilm

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