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DG Approved: The Defector

Once in a while a project on one of the crowdfunding platforms grabs our attention and we write about it. This was certainly the case with the Defector, a project we ran into on Twitter.

The documentary industry is growing and as with any industry this means that with growth comes change. One of the changing factors that can be seen is the mixture of documentary content with feature film content or even animation.

Documentaries such as the upcoming Dreams of a Life, the Somnambulists and Shock Head Soul prove that this form is not a genre in its own but provide merely a way to overcome difficulties that formerly could have easily stopped a documentary from being made.

It is also thanks to animation that the Defectors can now be made and the story of its subjects told to a large audience. That is, if they find the funds to make the film.

Park Sung-Hak releasing balloons accross the China-North Korea boarder in April. Photo by Jung Yeon-je, AFP/Getty Images

About the project

As the Kickstarter campaign explains, there are close to 300,000 North Koreans who have escaped starvation conditions and are in hiding in China right now. With no status or rights, they live in constant fear of being deported back to North Korea where they would face imprisonment, torture or possible execution.

“This is the legacy of the Cold War that has divided a country and brought tragedy to tens of thousands of families, including my own,” says director Heidi Tao Yang.

Why we think you should help get this documentary made

We feel this is a project to support because it highlights an issue we have been ignoring in the media due to the difficult, or almost impossible, accessibility that comes with the subject.

The team behind it has been filming undercover as they followed several defectors who embark on a grueling 3,000-mile journey across Asia, into Southeast Asia and, hopefully, on to countries like South Korea, the U.S., and Canada.

As explained, due to techniques such as animation the makers are able to expose a side of the story that has so far been untold – but should be out there.

What do they need?

At the time of writing their request saw 35 backers who pledged $2,240 of their first $20,000 goal. They have 37 days to go before their request runs out. As you can see from their Kickstarter campaign page, you will be rewarded for your help with all sorts of cool stuff (as if helping make a documentary about this subject isn’t cool enough).

They also received support from several Canadian broadcasters and funders and from this have started production already (as you can see from the trailer below). The project however is expensive, due to the difficulty of filming and due to the various geographical locations they need to visit.

For more information about this project – and there is a lot more actually, visit The Defector’s blog or their Facebook page.




Written by

Alexandra Zeevalkink is a Dutch-born journalist living in London who founded DocGeeks in August 2011 in order to have a legitimate excuse to watch every documentary under the sun. She freelances for various publications and writes mainly about documentaries and the film production industry. When she is not blogging or watching films, she enjoys theater, photography and reading loads of books. She is always on the look out for potential partnerships with other creative minds.

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2 Responses to "DG Approved: The Defector"

  1. neil says:

    Great article, I had no idea this was going on. The trailer’s cool, is it a film or a website?

  2. @neil this is a film but it will also be an interactive website which is pretty cool cause you can further in depth into the story.