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Cult docu-dramatized

Sarah Kruchowski, formerly of Duluth, directed the episode of "20/20 In an Instant" that airs today on ABC-TV. Photo submitted by Kruchowski.

DULUTH — The story of a young girl who was, for years, raped by the leader of a Pine County-based religious cult will be featured on "20/20: In an Instant" — and the episode is directed by Duluth-gone-Hollywood filmmaker Sarah Kruchowski.

This edition of the ABC television docudrama, which airs at 8 p.m. Saturay, June 10, is about Lindsay Tornambe, now an adult, whose family was a part of the River Road Fellowship in the mid-1990s. She was among a group of first-born girls, deemed "maidens," who cult leader Victor Barnard chose to live close to him.

The show features real stories told by survivors, illustrated with dramatized scenes. This episode was filmed in the Minneapolis area and completed in about two weeks, according to Kruchowski, who was charged with directing the re-enactments.

She's found a fit with this style of storytelling.

"My background is narrative," she said. "They try to take a very narrative approach."

Barnard ultimately landed in Brazil and was brought back to Minnesota, where he faced 59 counts of criminal misconduct. In 2016, he pleaded guilty to two counts and is currently serving a 30-year sentence. Barnard was attacked in the Rush City, Minn.-based prison earlier this year, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and suffered broken bones, a traumatic brain injury, collapsed lung and more.

Kruchowski said she works with a crew that thoroughly researches each of the players involved with the featured true story.

"You have this infinite wealth of actual information — which the actors love," she said. "If you have a question, (someone) can tell you exactly what gun it was. It's nice to have an entire research department available to answer your questions."

Kruchowski is also behind an upcoming episode about a home invasion in Ohio. The air date is TBA.

"The subject matter is almost always dark," Kruchowski said. "But it's also about survivors, so there is that in it as well."

Kruchowski, who graduated from Duluth East in 1996, studied Ethical Media and Sociology at the University of Minnesota. She received her master of fine arts from UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television. She and her writing partner, Jackie Vleck, are currently working on a comedy script, "True Colors," for Lifetime. (Think "Pitch Perfect" meets color guard, according to Kruchowski.) They also have a podcast, Garbagetown.

"20/20: In an Instant" is produced by Minnesota-based Committee Films. A few years ago, an episode about a grizzly bear attack was filmed in Silver Bay, Minn. — a makeshift Glacier National Park, according to the Lake County News Chronicle.

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