London Korean Links

Covering things Korean in London and beyond since 2006

Beyond Utopia – theatrical release

Dir: Madeleine Gavin (2023, 117 mins)
Date: Friday 27 October - Thursday 9 November 2023
Various venues

Tickets: Various | Screening details on Dogwoof website

Beyond Utopia movie poster

A suspenseful look at the lengths people will go to gain freedom, Beyond Utopia follows various individuals as they attempt to flee North Korea, one of the most oppressive places on Earth, a land they grew up believing was a paradise. At the film’s core are a mother desperate to reunite with the child she was forced to leave behind; a family of five — including small children and an elderly grandmother — embarking on a treacherous journey across the Yalu River and into the hostile mountains of China; and a man of God on a mission to help these desperate souls. Leaving their homeland is fraught with danger — severe punishment if caught and possibly even execution — as well as potential exploitation by unscrupulous brokers. Family members who remain behind also may face retribution. Yet these individuals are driven to take the risk. Gripping, visceral, and urgent, Madeleine Gavin’s film embeds the viewer with these family members as they attempt their perilous escape, palpably conveying life-or- death stakes. The result is a singular, illuminating, and unforgettable experience.

“A staggering look at the nightmare of North Korea and the brave souls who try to escape it” – Variety

“A first-class example of bravery and reportage melding into a filmed testament.” – Screen

“A staggering achievement, the sort of nonfiction project that takes unfathomable guts and skill” – Playlist

“An astonishing real-life geopolitical thriller” – The Hollywood Reporter

Madeleine Gavin has edited award-winning narrative and documentary films that premiered at Sundance, Toronto, Berlinale, and Cannes, among others. She directed and edited the Netflix documentary City of Joy, about a revolutionary center in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Gavin teaches in the film school at Columbia University School of the Arts and is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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