Last year the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam featured the moving South Korean documentary Planet of Snail. This year the interest is north of the border, with a new documentary on North Korean defectors by award-winning film-maker Ann Shin.
The Defector: Escape from North Korea
Ann Shin, Canada, 2012, color, HDcam, 71′
THE DEFECTOR: Escape from North Korea follows the perilous journey of two North Korean defectors and the broker who guides them to freedom. Their journey reflects the reality of tens of thousands of North Koreans currently hiding in China. Filmed undercover by Korean-Canadian filmmaker Ann Shin, THE DEFECTOR features never-seen-before footage and intimate access to individuals risking their lives to flee. This compelling, high-stakes story poses broader questions around human smuggling and the pursuit of freedom.
The feature-length documentary film was selected for the festival’s “Reflecting Images – Panorama” stream of films, which means it will be eligible for the IDFA Audience Award. IDFA selects films that are diverse, topical, politically committed and notable for both cinematic innovation and relevance to society.
Every year, large numbers of people flee North Korea by attempting to cross its border with China. But not everyone makes it across, and those who do are still not safe: China does not recognize North Korean refugees, so those who are caught are deported back to their home country. They have to move on, and this is where Dragon comes in. Once a refugee himself, Dragon now mediates between refugees and human traffickers who lead them through the Chinese provinces and Laos to Thailand. This journey is also fraught with the constant danger of being caught. Dragon’s position is ambivalent; he sees himself as a human rights activist, not as “some shady broker” who charges a fee. This tense, revealing documentary uses a hidden camera to follow two North Korean refugees and Dragon. Along the way, the director builds a relationship with the refugees. We often see her on-screen, sometimes looking quite concerned. The parts of the story that take place in North Korea are shown by means of animation and footage that was smuggled out of the country. The situation of these North Koreans and the circumstances of their flight as revealed in this film raise questions about their human rights in China.
Screenings are as follows:
Brakke Grond Rode Zaal | Sun 18 Nov | 17:00
Tuschinski 1 | Mon 19 Nov | 12:45
Munt 11 | Wed 21 Nov | 15:00
Tuschinski 4 | Sat 24 Nov | 16:45
More details and booking information on The Defector page at IDFA.