Eau Claire Film Festival to highlight feature films

Director M. Douglas Silverstein and Kathleen Black speak on their documentary, “The Relentless One”

Skyler Schad

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October 4, 2023

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“The Relentless One” to be showcased at the Eau Claire Film Festival

The Eau Claire Film Festival is running from Nov. 4-6, bringing short films to UW-Eau Claire for students and the community to enjoy.

The festival will be held in the Woodland Theater on the third floor of Davies. The schedule includes a wide array of short films that will be showcased.

One of these highlighted short films is “The Relentless One.” The documentary is directed by M. Douglas Silverstein and tells the story of Kathleen Black.

According to the IMDb website, “Kathleen Black survived a horrific childhood as a witness to parental domestic abuse and by becoming homeless at 15 after surviving her own mental and physical abuse that included her being sent to a psychiatric ward for observation.”

Black was able to get back up on her feet, and she got a bachelor’s degree in psychology and women’s studies, while juggling being the mother of a young son. She was originally working as a manager at dental offices, but she later decided to switch it up and get a real estate license. 

Black said she coached top-notch real estate teams in Canada. She started her own company in 2015, which aims to help individuals with mindset and performance within the real estate field.

M. Douglas Silverstein is an Emmy Award winning director and has worked with Taylor Swift, Madonna, Beyonce and many others.

Silverstein said he was originally a musician. He was touring and working various jobs that he didn’t end up getting a college degree until later. He went to music school, worked in radio, held two jobs and still played in two bands while attending university.

Silverstein later went to Emerson College for two years and worked on their college network and music show. As a result of this work, Silverstein got his start as a director and did this for about 23 years before he discovered Black.

“I wanted to find things outside of music,” Silverstein said. “So I started to look for people and their stories who I determined were rockstars in their own world, who people wouldn’t know about unless I did a film about them.”

Silverstein found happiness in the power of music, communication and people connecting. He discovered this in Black’s story.

“When I was able to find Kathleen and her story, I went, ‘Wow, how come she’s not broken? How come she’s not complaining? How does she do it?’ I always say it’s the Terminator effect,” Silverstein said. “Kathleen never took the easy way out, she figured it out.”

Black said she went to college with no family support or love and connection from her family, and she had a child during her first year at school. Despite all of this, she said she was able to power through. 

“I find a lot of people in college have this weight that you’re supposed to know who you are and you’re supposed to know what you’re doing,” Black said. “I think a big piece of why the movie is powerful for somebody in college is that we think in college we’re supposed to have it figured out, but it’s actually when we’re creating ourselves.”

Black believes that a lot of her strength comes from the abuse she endured over the course of her childhood.

“So much of the movie is taking these difficult times and using that energy to create our lives stronger and go further with it,” Black said. “They’re not things that are going to hold us back, but in my younger years, I thought they were.”

Black found it very important that she share her story with the world because she feels she is supporting those who are walking alone just as she had.

“Your secrets are your sickness, whereas when you move forward in life to be strong, your scars are your strength. I didn’t want to have any secrets,” Black said. “Sometimes in our lives when we can’t go forward on our own, it’s because we’re not meant to. We’re meant to have mentorship or to need somebody around us.”

Her goal with sharing her story is to show that her life isn’t perfect, and that it can be relatable to others. She wants the audience to see that it’s okay to go through hard things.

“We’ve all been through difficult things in life and we can overcome them. We can not just heal from them, but we can do much better because of them,” Black said.

Silverstein said the film is very real, and it showcases how one can face hardships, but come out on the other end stronger than before.

“Moving past her pain fuels her future,” Silverstein said. 

Black ultimately hopes the film creates a spark that moves viewers to make any kind of positive change in their lives.

“I hope people are inspired, but I hope they aspire to something for themselves,” Black said. “Hope is everything, and if you feel a little bit more powerful, you can do a little bit more, you dream a bit more and that powers us forward.”

Silverstein encourages college students to attend the documentary showing, because it might open their minds and help them realize that college is a time of growth.

“If you don’t know who you are, what you want to do or how to figure things out, come to this movie and it might help you,” Silverstein said.

Tickets for “The Relentless One” and all of the other short films being showcased are available for purchase on the Eau Claire Film Festival website.

Schad can be reached at [email protected]