A film by Neven Rufio


logline & short synopsys

Logline In turbulent alternate history Europe, a detective and a TV host team up to solve the murder of a young actress to whom they were both connected.

Short Synopsis Four decades after World War II, Europe is split into two alliances: United Europe (UE) in the West, and United Socialist Republics (USR) in the East. When Nina Kovac, a young actress from USR, is found murdered in UE, Detective Michelle LeBlanc teams up with television host Rose Christie, both personally connected to Nina. Together, they investigate links between Nina's last days in the UE, and the devastating end to USR civil war a few years earlier that paved the way to Nina's demise. As past and present collide, Michelle and Rose weave the political waters of this changing world to find justice for Nina Kovac.


Author's statement

Mythology of Kingdom Lost was born out of an idea of a chamber piece mystery set on a television show, but as character development expanded, it became a more complex piece that spans through two different timelines. Kingdom Lost follows the main character Michelle in a chaotic first act served to set up the plot and characters. The plot begins unfolding in the second act at a pace that remains quick to the end. The story is structured around reminiscence of two lead characters, Michelle and Danny, and it often bends and breaks in a non-linear way. The past influences the present, it influences character relationships, old and new, and creates conflicts that come to a head when the timelines join. Even though the focus was innitially on plot, Kingdom Lost became as much, or more, about character development for the six leads. The six form relationships of love, lust, friendship, brotherhood, ambition, envy, and betrayal. The common theme among all six is that they are all orphaned children, and the story explores what it means for them to be alone versus having someone they can call family. Originally set in 1990's Yugoslav wars, Kingdom Lost instead took that only as inspiration and eventually expanded into an alternate version of European history, one that's not entirely unlike our present, but modified in a way that allows freedom of plot and character development, some interesting world building, and avoids taking sides in Yugoslav conflicts. As the story's author, I used personal experiences during early 1990's wars to enhance this aspect of the story with a degree of authenticity. Kingdom Lost is designed to be rich and varied in content. Plot progresses through frequent switches. The setting often reveals new sides to its world. The attached actors who joined the film bring exciting dynamics, attention to detail, and emotional power. Pale Princess short film serves as the story's prologue, focused on Nina, the central character, and history of violence in her childhood. The second short, Neon & Blood (in development), will focus on world building and plot related events that eventually tie into the first act of Kingdom Lost. Both shorts are able to function independently, but individually and as a whole, demonstrate the atmosphere and visual identity of Kingdom Lost.


Production Notes

finaNcing / pre-production TBA
Principal shoot TBA
Post-production TBA
Format 2K 16:9
First festival submission TBA
Budget 750K EURO
Filming Locations SERBIA


In 1991, we are introduced to our heroine Michelle - we find her held captive in the Den, an underground club for prostitution, gambling, and violence, run by a notorious UE criminal called Mads. Shackled in her cell, Michelle reminisces about her brief but passionate fling with Nina, a lonely girl from a small town in USR. Several years after her encounter with Michelle, Nina became quite well know as a film actress. Her success was short lived, as she was found murdered in a public park in UE. In the Den, Michelle is forced to fight in a ring in front of a crowd of men who are indicated to have paid to watch and enjoy violence against women. After Michelle defeats her opponent, the Den comes under attack Michelle uses the distraction to make her way to Mads, and we find out the reason she's in the Den is to investigate Nina's death.Mads knows nothing, and Michelle neutralizes him, just as the rescue squad breaks in to get her. At that point we find out Michelle is a detective.

A few weeks before the murder, Michelle spends time with her younger sister Rose, host of a program called The Ring. Rose offers Michelle the chance to reunite with Nina who will be a guest on The Ring, but Michelle declines. On the live show, Rose brings up Nina's past as an escort back in the USR. Nina is hurt but admits the story to be true. The scandal makes Nina well know practically overnight. Michelle feels Rose betrayed both her and Nina and stops speaking with her.

We meet Danny Connington, a UE aristocrat and philanthropist. Danny remembers the year 1984, when, along with his friend James Nemechek, he spent time with Nina and her brother Dario Kovac, in the last days of USR civil war. Danny and James visited the USR to report on war time living. After their failed excursion to witness and document smuggling between two warring parties, the group return to town where the blitz bombing attack finds them trapped and nearly buried in a shelter.

On the morning after the murder, Michelle is summoned by her boss Irina Pavlov to the crime scene in the park. Upon arrival, Michelle becomes physically ill when she finds out the victim is Nina, but hides the connection from Pavlov. Michelle insists she must take the case and infiltrate the Den immediately. Michelle tracks down Mads and pretends she's a girl from USR looking for work and thus infiltrates the Den. After the events in the Den, Michelle finds Rose waiting for her in front of her apartment building. Michelle forgives Rose for the interview with Nina, and sisters agree to team up and solve the case of Nina Kovac.

Michelle and Rose come to the conclusion Nina must have known the person who murdered her. They have a lead that the possible murderer may have been nicknamed The Black Knight by Nina, a figure from her past. The sisters investigate the area around the park where Nina was found. They find out Nina stayed in one of the hotels under a false name. Michelle checks the room where Nina stayed but finds it thoroughly cleaned, with no potential evidence left behind. Rose is tasked to look into any connections Nina may have had with anyone from UE during the war. Michelle travels to USR to investigate further. Meanwhile, we witness a failed attempt by James Nemechek to reunite with Danny. Danny ignores James' efforts, from which we learn their friendship must have taken a significant hit.

In USR, Michelle meets a few people from Nina's home town. From one of them she learns about two Englishmen who were trapped in a bomb shelter together with Nina and Dario. The person remembers what they looked like, but he doesn't know their names. He also recalls one of the Englishmen seemed like he was in a fist fight. Meanwhile, Rose finds out Danny and James were reported missing during the last days of war, in Nina's home town. When Rose shares that information with her sister, Michelle makes a connection. Rose faxes over the photos which Michelle shows to the witness. He immediately identifies Danny and James as the two Englishmen. Upon her return to the UE, Michelle briefs Pavlov on the progress of the investigation. Pavlov shares confidential information that Danny's father may have been involved in orchestrating the civil war in USR, and that there might be a current plot to instigate another war.

We periodically inter-cut with the 1984 timeline: Dario and Nina show the shelter to Danny and James. The shelter is equipped with food and water to last a couple of weeks. The group realize it could be some time before they're rescued. Dario reveals a storage room where he keeps narcotics for the Sinners, a para-military group active at the time, as per cause of a forced arrangement with the Sinners who practically control the town. The four of them talk about possible political involvement from the UE, and a chance that UE instigated a war in the USR. Dario is upset because he expected cooperation and understanding from Danny and James, but Danny refuses to take sides and wishes to stay objective. Friendship between Danny and Dario is on the rocks, and tensions start to show. Danny approach Dario with an effort to smooth things out, but Dario does not meet him half way. Later, Dario becomes verbally abusive towards Nina, and when Danny steps up to defend her, he and Dario almost come to blows. Danny comforts Nina, and as they become closer, they sneak away to sleep together.

Back in 1991, Michelle is reunited with Rose. They gather more information about Danny and James, find out two of them haven't been seen publicly since the war ended, and are probably no longer friends. Michelle interviews Danny and James, both of whom acknowledge their 1984 links to Nina but remain mostly tight lipped and deny having seen her since the war ended. When Michelle mentions The Black Knight to James, he seems to come to a very important realization but reveals nothing to Michelle. Later that night, James hangs himself. The police find a note in which James confesses to Nina's murder. Michelle gets into a war of words with Pavlov over the legitimacy of James' confession, as Michelle thinks James did it only to protect Danny. She firmly believes Danny is responsible for Nina's death due to something that happened in the bomb shelter. After feeling betrayed by Pavlov, Michelle quits the police squad. After the dust settles, Michelle asks Rose to help her expose Danny publicly. Rose agrees.

The sisters' plan unfolds; Danny is a guest on Rose's live show The Ring, believing he is there to promote a benefit for his philanthropic efforts. Rose turns the tables on Danny, rattles him with painful details from his past, guilt about James' suicide, and finally makes him face the accusation he killed Nina. Danny holds firm, but leaves an impression to anyone watching there must be something to the accusations. He never voices the confession, and simply leaves the show during live airing without too much effort to defend himself. At this point we find out what really happened; when Danny and Nina sneaked away to sleep together, they were found out by Dario, who violently attacked both of them. Dario beat up Nina to the point of unconsciousness, and hurt Danny so much he was dazed and couldn't defend himself when Dario ultimately raped him. James was aware of everything but was too afraid to do anything about it, and merely pretended to sleep when Dario checked on him. Years later, Danny and Nina secretly met in the hotel by the park. All these years, Danny believed Nina knew what happened and did nothing to help him, without knowing she wasn't aware of what happened to him since she fainted early. When Nina tries to be intimate with Danny, hoping to rekindle their affection, Danny is overwhelmed by his past trauma and strangles Nina. Nina doesn't fight back, doesn't try to stop Danny in any way. After she dies, Danny sees the scars on her body and realizes she was a victim too, and suffers for what he has done.

Weeks later, Michelle attends Danny's benefit, and finds no one showed up. Everyone Danny knew abandoned him amidst the accusations, and he is for all intents and purposes ruined. Michelle and Danny have a quiet chat where Danny reveals his involvement in current affairs in the USR. Even though Michelle insists for a private confession of murder, Danny declines. Seeing him broken and defeated, Michelle leaves Danny all alone, and we partake in her memory of Nina, where she lets herself grieve.

Producer's Statement








pilot / short film


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